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GOP Leaders Must Free Themselves From The Tea Party’s Grip

Media reports are touting the Senate’s Gang of Six and its new budget outline. But the news that explains why the nation is caught in this debt-ceiling fiasco is the gang warfare inside the Republican Party. We are witnessing the disintegration of Tea Party Republicanism.

The Tea Party’s followers have endangered the nation’s credit rating and the GOP by pushing both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor away from their own best instincts.

Cantor worked amicably with the negotiating group organized by Vice President Joe Biden and won praise for his focus even from liberal staffers who have no use for his politics.

Yet when the Biden group seemed close to a deal, it was shot down by the Tea Party’s champions. Boehner left Cantor exposed as the frontman in the Biden talks and did little to rescue him.

Then it was Boehner’s turn on the firing line. He came near a bigger budget deal with President Obama, but the same right-wing rejectionists blew this up, too. Cantor evened the score by serving as a spokesman for Republicans opposed to any tax increase of any kind.

Think about the underlying dynamic here. The evidence suggests that both Boehner and Cantor understand the peril of the game their Republican colleagues are playing. They know we are closer than we think to having the credit rating of the United States downgraded. This may happen before Aug. 2, the date everyone is using as the deadline for action.

Unfortunately, neither of the two House leaders seems in a position to tell the obstreperous right that it is flatly and dangerously wrong when it claims that default is of little consequence. Rarely has a congressional leadership seemed so powerless.

Compare the impasse Boehner and Cantor are in with the aggressive maneuvering of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He knows how damaging default would be and is working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to concoct a way out.

McConnell can do this because he doesn’t confront the Tea Party problem that so bedevils Boehner and Cantor. Many of the Tea Party’s Senate candidates — Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska — lost in 2010. Boehner and Cantor, by contrast, owe their majority in part to Tea Party supporters. McConnell has a certain freedom to govern that his House leadership colleagues do not.

And this is why Republicans are going to have to shake themselves loose from the Tea Party. Quite simply, the Tea Party’s legions are not interested in governing, at least as governing is normally understood in a democracy with separated powers. They believe that because the Republicans won one house of Congress in one election, they have a mandate to do whatever the right wing wants. A Democratic president and Senate are dismissed as irrelevant nuisances, although they were elected, too.

The Tea Party lives in an intellectual bubble where the answers to every problem lie in books by F.A. Hayek, Glenn Beck or Ayn Rand. Rand’s anti-government writings, regarded by her followers as modern-day scripture — Rand, an atheist, would have bridled at that comparison — are particularly instructive.

When the hero of Rand’s breakthrough novel, “The Fountainhead,” doesn’t get what he wants, he blows up a building. Rand’s followers see that as gallant. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that blowing up our government doesn’t seem to be a big deal to some of the new radical individualists in our House of Representatives.

Our country is on the edge. Our capital looks like a lunatic asylum to many of our own citizens and much of the world. We need to act now to restore certainty by extending the debt ceiling through the end of this Congress.

Boehner and Cantor don’t have time to stretch things out to appease their unappeasable members, and they should settle their issues with each other later. Nor do we have time to work through the ideas from the Gang of Six. The Gang has come forward too late with too little detail. Their suggestions should be debated seriously, not rushed through.

Republicans need to decide whether they want to be responsible conservatives or whether they will let the Tea Party destroy the House That Lincoln Built in a glorious explosion. Such pyrotechnics may look great to some people on the pages of a novel or in a movie, but they’re rather unpleasant when experienced in real life.

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 20, 2011

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That’s Why They’re Called Leaders”: Congressional Republicans Need To Do Their Job

One of the more common Republican criticisms of President Obama, at least in the context of the debt-reduction talks, is that he hasn’t shown enough “leadership.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the floor late last week to cry, “Where in the world has the president been for the last month? … He’s the one in charge.”

One of the parts of Obama’s press conference this morning that I especially liked was the president’s pushback against the notion that he’s been a passive observer in this process.

“I’ve got to say, I’m very amused when I start hearing comments about, ‘Well, the president needs to show more leadership on this.’ Let me tell you something. Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together. I said we’ve got to get this done. I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process — that, by the way, has made real progress — but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues. I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each — Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House. I’ve met with the leaders multiple times. At a certain point, they need to do their job.

“And so, this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions, and we’re working through process, and when they decide they’re not happy with the fact that at some point you’ve got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, ‘Well, you know, the president needs to get this done.’ They need to do their job.

“Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That’s why they’re called leaders…. They’re in one week, they’re out one week. And then they’re saying, ‘Obama has got to step in.’ You need to be here. I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”

I’m glad the president pressed this, not just because he sounded a bit like Truman slamming the do-nothing Congress, but because many in the media have bought into the notion that lawmakers have dug in on this, and the president hasn’t. That’s nonsense.

Congressional Republicans haven’t been slaving away, trying to strike a credible deal. They’ve been making threats, drawing lines in the sand, and barking orders about what is and is not allowed to be on the negotiating table.

“They need to do their job.” Part of those responsibilities includes working in good faith to find an equitable compromise with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic White House, and then doing what they must do, but what the president cannot do: passing the damn debt-ceiling increase.

Tick tock.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, June 29, 2011

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Lawmakers, Media, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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