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Tea party preps for fight with ‘Surrender Caucus’ after declaring moral victory
The GOP rebels in Congress have been doing a slow burn over the failure of their party to block or even slow government growth, which has been faster under Mr. Obama than under President George W. Bush, who increased spending more than any of his six predecessors, including Mr. Johnson. And it wasn’t just entitlements. In his eight years in the White House, President Bush increased discretionary spending by an eye-popping 49 percent.
Some conservative Republican strategists around the country, including some surprisingly prominent ones, have been saying privately that things had come to a head in the last few weeks because the GOP had shown itself to be so weak that it was bordering on irrelevance, even while controlling one house of Congress.
True, two years ago, Republicans staged a mini-showdown over the debt ceiling, today’s GOP House and Senate rebels acknowledge. They wanted the Democrats to agree to a “cut, cap and balance” agenda on spending and the federal deficit. The Republican got some cuts and caps. It was not what they considered enough, but certainly more than if they had not used their leverage.
Since that modest accomplishment, they had done nothing to block what they see as the Democrats’ ongoing drive to socialize the economy and increase dependency on the government.
The boat-rockers among the House GOP’s majority and the Cruz-Lee-Paul faction among the Senate GOP’s minority decided that with Obamacare about to be implemented, they better at least try to do something. They knew they could not win, but it would at least show they understood the nation was about to pass the point of no return in another major advance toward what they called European-style socialism by funding the Affordable Care Act.
The problem from these GOP rebels’ viewpoint was that the majority of the Washington GOP establishment had no fight in them. Those moderate GOP leaders were warriors in the cause of limited government no more — if they ever were.
That left some rebels torn over strategy, inclined, as one of them put it privately, “to cruise with Ted” but at the same time thinking, “It would be nice to walk out on a limb and not have the surrender caucus behind you sawing it off before you even get started.”
Act 5 of the shutdown drama this week leaves unclear just what was accomplished. Do enough GOP voters see the party as having reasserted its relevance, at least somewhat, to win in 2014 and in 2016?
However worthy Mr. Cruz’s goals, Republicans close to the action on Capitol Hill say the freshman Texan’s tactics have annoyed beyond redemption almost all his GOP colleagues with what they see as his grandstanding in preparation for a 2016 presidential nomination bid.
Many of these same Republicans say Mr. Paul, also a probable 2016 nomination contender, did not desert Mr. Cruz in holding out for significant concessions from Democrats. At the same time, the Kentucky Republican made it clear he thought a government shutdown was bad for his party and his country — and he refrained from attacks on the leadership. How that plays with donors in 2016 is not knowable at this point, partisans of each man say.
A surprisingly number of prominent Republicans are saying that if the GOP loses the 2016 presidential elections, the party will go the way of the Whigs — or formally split into a moderate party and a conservative party.
“Those Republican rebels in Congress may have demonstrated, at least until the shutdown ended, that there are some GOP leaders still standing for principles and understanding spending and Obamacare are moral issues of the day,” Solomon Yue of Oregon, a founder of the RNC’s Conservative Caucus, wrote in an email.
“If we are not willing to fight on those issues, Republicans could become Whigs,” Mr. Yue said. “Therefore, the shutdown drama not only re-energized our demoralized base but also preserved our GOP army for the fight in 2014 and beyond as far as our grassroots are concerned.”
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About the Author
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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