Sunday, September 13, 2015

There Is No Hill That Tea Partiers Won't Die On

by JASmius

Some days it seems like I'm the only person on the Right who has a balanced view of the government shutdown tactic.

On the one hand, it never works for the GOP.  In legislative terms, because even though they're the majority in both Houses of Congress, those majorities aren't big enough to overcome Obama vetoes, or even Senate Democrat filibusters, short of Mitch McConnell "going nuclear," which is never going to happen.  And in PR terms because media bias guarantees that the Democrats will never have the onus and pressure on them to cave and accommodate their opponents, and the longer the shutdown goes on the more the public inevitably blames the GOP.

On the other hand, that PR disadvantage is always short-term and transitory.  In fact, every true partisan battle going back twenty years that I can recall where the Republicans took a stand had one thing in common: Democrats warned that it would be electoral death for the GOP, and those dire predictions never materialized.

Which leaves us with a mixed bag.  Government shutdowns don't do any long-term damage to us, but they don't accomplish anything, either.  Put another way, the GOP leadership is needlessly fearful, and the Tea Party is groundlessly overconfident.

Now it is true that there is more than one advantage to controlling Congress.  Even if you can't get your agenda into law, you can at least use that control to frame the political debate in your favor.  That's a nuance that Boehner and McConnell never seem to pick up on.  However, if our side is going to inevitably wind up throwing in the towel, as we always do, that would seem to negate that advantage.

All of which to say, it appears to me that congressional TPers have the advantage in a shutdown showdown over Planned Parenthood defunding - if they're willing to die on that particular hill.

That's over the GOP leadership, of course, not the Dems:

Conservative and Republican revulsion for Planned Parenthood and abortion has been reignited this summer by secretly recorded videos showing organization officials offhandedly discussing how they sometimes provide tissue from aborted fetuses for medical researchers.

Keeping conservatives happy and prompting large numbers of them to vote in next year's presidential and congressional elections is good for the GOP. Conservatives are among the party's most loyal and numerous voters.

Advancing a bill that finances government agencies but blocks Planned Parenthood's money is one way to do that.

Such a bill probably would pass the GOP-run House. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, acknowledges that he lacks the votes to prevail in his chamber and says Barack Obama would veto it anyway.

That makes GOP leaders reluctant to force a doomed standoff with Obama that could result in a shutdown and alienate pivotal independent voters. The public mostly blamed Republicans in 2013 when a partial shutdown lasted sixteen days after they tried dismantling Obama's health care law in exchange for keeping agencies open.

"Having charged up the hill once and been shot down, why would you want to do that again?" said Representative Tom Cole, R-OK4, an ally of House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH8. "I'm pretty convinced we're not going to shut down the government."

Interestingly, though, Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC5) has only been able to garner thirty-one signatures on a letter calling for a shutdown showdown over Planned Parenthood funding, and the usual suspect, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), is having next to no success on his side of the Capitol.  Which is what happens when you're constantly carpet-bombing your own lines, as it were.  Even abortion foe Senator James Lankford, R-OK, told Tulsa radio station KFAQ that blocking Planned Parenthood's funds is "a sideshow" to legislation to directly "protect children."

So if another government shutdown can't produce the legislative result conservatives seek but won't hurt them in PR terms in the long term, why are they doing it?

Here, I think, is our answer:

Boehner has clashed often with some of the House's most rebellious conservatives. This summer, Representative Mark Meadows, R-NC11, introduced a symbolic motion to remove Boehner from the speakership. It went nowhere but conservatives might force a binding vote on deposing Boehner and think that threat could pressure him to avoid working with Democrats.

"The last thing we need is more weak leadership from John Boehner" with a possible vote to oust him "always stalking out there," said conservative Representative Tim Huelskamp, R-KS1.

Spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "is focused on ensuring that our team is exposing Planned Parenthood's barbaric methods to the world, saving more babies" and said the speaker "is not going anywhere."

It's unclear if an effort to remove Boehner would succeed, but it would be embarrassing.

If thirty-one House 'Pubbies hold out against caving in a shutdown showdown, John Boehner will need Democrat votes to overcome them, and that would be the justification for yet another "coup" attempt.  Would it be successful this time, unlike all of its predecessors?  Doubtful.  But Tea Partiers will doubtless keep on flailingly trying.

So, to sum it all up, House TPers, under the cover of trying to defund Planned Parenthood, are really just launching the next bloody battle in the GOP Civil War.  Which will not defund Planned Parenthood and not topple the reigning House Speaker.

Or, in other words, just another day at the "GOP Failure Theater" office.

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