As I type, Republican Senators are meeting at the White House with the President to discuss the issues of extending the budget and raising the debt ceiling, one of many recent maneuvers in Washington that suggests some kind of deal will be reached soon regarding at least the raising of the debt ceiling for a short period of time and possibly an extension of the budget (“opening of the government”).
According to polls the Republicans are being blamed significantly more than the Democrats for the morass in which the government resides, but a NBC/WSJ poll indicates 60% of respondents would like to fire every member of Congress, so while the Republican “brand” seems to have taken a bigger hit in this ongoing folly, Democrats should keep celebrations to a minimum. They are not exactly being embraced, either, by many Americans who are angry at them all.
What I find most interesting in all of this is the shape the Republican party will take after the dust eventually settles over these budget/debt issues (for awhile at least; it figures to dust up again and again).
Flicking back and forth this morning between Fox and MSNBC, America’s divergent realities, I saw Senator McCain on Fox’s America’s News Room. While he called the Obama handling of the death benefits for 29 military families a “disgrace,” I was surprised to see him blame the Tea Party faction of his own party even more (*1). Had they not insisted on a losing strategy tying these fiscal issues to Obamacare, the government wouldn’t be shut down and these death benefits would be a non-issue. Deep in his soul, I think John McCain would iike to punch out Ted Cruz.
Flicking to MSNBC, they were showing the Cruz-ader himself at the Values Summit (reactionary values) preaching to the faithful, getting big applause while tripling down on rolling back Obamacare, as if he has been right all along and the rest of his party had better wake up. Then back to MSNBC and conservative Columinist Charles Krauthammer is being quoted as lambasting the Cruz strategy of attaching Obamacare to the current fiscal issues which he and obviously McCain see as the party shooting itself in the foot.
Watching the happy-as-a-clam Cruz basking in the love of his fellow travelers while also seeing establishment Republicans like McCain and Krauthammer slice and dice his Obamacare non-strategy, I have to conclude that there will be no healing of this rift.
Establishment Republicans have embraced the Tea Party for the energy it has elicited in the base of the party, but at the same time have found themselves being threatened and voted out of primaries by that passionate hard core. Until recently, they have refrained from harsh attacks on Cruz and company, but since Cruz shows no inclination to play political ball with them, a nasty battle for the heart of the party seems inevitable.
It should get very interesting.
(*1) While it gets complicated, I think the administration has not done everything it could to make the shutdown the least painful as possible. The fiasco over not paying death benefits to the families of troops seems the most egregious case in point. It is likely the administration has believed the Republicans would receive more of the blame, but in the death benefits case, they don’t look good, either. Hence, Obama just signed a bill allowing these payments despite his position he would not except piecemeal moves to fund parts of the government.
It is because blaming the administration would seem the normal target for John McCain, his emphasizing the fault within his own party is striking.