John Boehner's unconditional surrender, and why he has no choice but to disappoint the Tea Party

The faces of unconditional surrender: Cantor looks resigned and Boehner waves white flag.
Conservative media has a spin on today's unconditional surrender from John Boehner (his words, not mine) on the debt ceiling. They are reassuring their lamb that avoiding the debt ceiling catastrophe allows Republicans to get back to focusing on the delaying/defunding of the Affordable Care Act. Without the possibility of a US default hanging over their heads - which is both turning Americans against them and widening the rift within the GOP - Congressional Republicans will now be able to focus on Obamacare, they argue.

The fatal flaw with that argument is that the Republican surrender on the debt ceiling is not the end of their concessions, but the beginning. Long before the debt ceiling threats were serious, Republicans dropped their demand to delay or defund Obamacare. Their last serious attempt to mess with the Affordable Care Act was to couple a delay the individual responsibility provision and grant tax breaks to medical device manufacturers who with a continuing resolution. Republicans gave away the store on delaying or defunding the whole law before the battle on the debt ceiling even began.

Remember that Republicans had always thought of the debt ceiling as their bigger bargaining chip on Obamacare, not the CR. In fact, Speaker Boehner made an agreement with Harry Reid for a clean CR if Reid could get Senate Democrats to agree to GOP's spending levels. Reid kept his end of the bargain, but the Speaker reneged because of Tea Party pressure. But after the Tea Party's push to deny health insurance to 30 million Americans and consumer protections to everyone who has health care, the Democrats and the president stood strong and turned back those attempts, leaving the GOP looking for an exit strategy.

The Tea Party will no doubt keep pressuring, but there is every indication that the GOP intends to give up the fight to tie the Affordable Care Act to Congress' job to fund the government. That attempt blew up in their faces so badly, putting the control of the House itself in play and plunging the Republican party's popularity to an all time low, that even their darling Paul Ryan didn't dare touch it in his op-ed begging the president for a grand bargain.

And Paul Ryan's op-ed isn't the end. Yesterday, the Koch Brothers, better known as the Tea Party's bankers, abandoned them - not only on the debt ceiling, but on funding the government. Ultimately, even the Koch brothers know that the Tea Party is not itself a large enough contingent to form a governing majority, and they can't afford to lose the Republican party altogether if they are to continue to goad governments into giving the rich sweetheart deals. In words ringing out the Tea Party's heart, Koch Industries wrote:
...Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defending Obamacare.
Translation: the Tea Party's bankrollers would like our lapdogs in Congress to please give up on this insane, losing political strategy.

Koch Brothers aren't the only ones, obviously. We have seen in the past week powerful financial interests that generally back the GOP cracking the whip, including bankers and the Chamber of Commerce. And today, Heritage Action and Club for Growth - two of the most ardent right-wing groups - jumped off this particular crazy ship as well.
For the first time since the government shutdown began 10 days ago, senior lawmakers from both parties predicted they would be able to resolve their differences in a way that would allow both sides to claim victory.

Outside conservative groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, who have pressed Republicans to resist compromise, said they would not punish those who voted for the new plan.
One essential consequence of both sides being able to resolve this and claim victory is that Obamacare gets left alone - no delays, no defunding, none of that teabagging bull. While the groups are avoiding going specifically to the CR, the clear case is that even they realize how much the shutdown has hurt the Right, and they are not in the mood to keep that going. The only thing left now is for them to figure out a way to let the Tea Party down easy. After all, the same Tea Partiers who argued that Obamacare must be gutted also told us that default is no big deal, and they are now being thrown to the sidelines.

I doubt the Tea Party will be let down easily, and a distinct possibility remains that they will force the GOP to further foot-shooting (and even that Boehner's current plan will fall apart), but as I have argued for some time now, the internal GOP civil war will continue to be bloody until the party either recedes to the fringes or puts down the fringes. But for now, Republicans in Congress - and more importantly, powerful wingbat groups outside of Congress - seem to have decided that they have lost this battle, and that retreat may be a more viable option than obliteration.

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