Cruz, allies ready for next battle with ‘Surrender Caucus’

GOP boat-rockers hope to turn deal defeat into victory

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The rowdy, stubborn species of conservatives who forced the 16-day shutdown of the federal government and brought the nation to the brink of default see only victory in their loss in the debt-ceiling battle.

They’ve got a new rallying cry and a new moniker for their archenemy of establishment politicians and status quo government: the “Surrender Caucus.”

And anyone who dares think the latest crisis averted will end the cycle of budget battles, debt default threats and assaults on Obamacare should think again.

This renegade band of unconventional politicians already lives for the next fight — which has been kicked beyond the holidays to early 2014. And none of Washington’s traditional levers of influence seem able to divert them from the goal of fighting again.

The threat of being stripped of committee assignments, losing party support for re-election or being blamed in the polls for the shutdown has little effect on the likes of Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah and their allies in the House.

“We are getting zero fiscal discipline,” a frustrated Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said when explaining why he voted against the budget deal despite hailing from a state that voted for President Obama twice.

There is also a misunderstanding in the mainstream media about what really motivated these boat-rockers. It wasn’t about actually stopping Democrats from taking the Affordable Care Act across the goal line, nor was it about raising the debt ceiling before Mr. Obama and the Democrats offered any significant spending cuts.

Rather, it was about showing that there were Republicans in Congress who understood that standing and fighting was itself the goal — the endgame that disparaging critics on the left, right and center said was glaringly absent from Mr. Cruz’s crusade.

“He’s done a good job drawing attention to Obamacare and that Obamacare is something that is going to be damaging to people,” Mr. Paul said of Mr. Cruz in a television interview Sunday. “And, for that, I think he’s done a great service in bringing attention to, I think, something that’s really going to be bad for a lot of Americans.”

The goal-line stand would, in the minds of many conservatives, show dispirited GOP rank-and-filers that their party still had hopes and aspirations for reclaiming a relevance lost since the Reagan era.

“Our leaders in Congress have been bent and broken so many times by the Democrats and President Obama that this became a must-do line in the sand for them,” said Bruce Ash, chairman of the Republican National Committee’s Standing Rules Committee and of its Conservative Caucus. “The GOP leadership had its back up against the wall — a bad place to be.”

“It was entirely proper to condition an increase in the debt limit on some measures of fiscal restraint,” Chicago lawyer and Reagan administration official Joe Morris said. “Mr. Obama’s demand that Congress raise the debt limit unconditionally and automatically was to treat the debt limit as a meaningless abstraction and to treat Congress as robots which conservatives in Congress could not let stand.”

The fallout from Wednesday’s budget vote was not long in coming, as a trio of conservative groups rushed to endorse the primary challenge announced by GOP state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a tea party favorite against longtime Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, one of 27 GOP senators to vote in favor of the deal ending the government shutdown.

Rejecting bipartisanship

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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