What's going on in the GOP reminds me of the way a lot of people talk about gang violence. It's often said that in recent years it's been more common for kids in gangs to shoot other kids in gangs (and shoot innocent bystanders) because they just can't walk away from a dispute; if they've been disrespected, the fight inevitably escalates, until somebody gets shot.
That's how the GOP seems right now. Look at the Obamacare fight. John Boehner was disrespected when he was accused of offering a fake vote on defunding of the health care law, and so he gave in to Senator Ted Cruz's demand for a House vote on a provision that would really defund Obamacare, after which Boehner and other House Republicans attacked Cruz for saying that he and his allies couldn't really block Obamacare in the Senate.
People who looked at the likely course of the Obamacare-defunding proposal in the Senate agreed that, for complicated reasons, Cruz was correct and there was no real opportunity to stage a true filibuster of a bill with full funding of Obamacare. The only filibuster opportunity requires Cruz and his allies to block a bill that includes the defunding proposal they favor. Smart people like Kevin Drum said that was absurd, and therefore unlikely:
Here's the process:But, of course, Cruz can demand a filibuster of the defund-Obamacare bill, just to try to stop the process in its tracks -- and, in fact, if that's the only way for him to respond to being disrespected, he has to, to save face.
1. Harry Reid offers a motion to proceed and then files cloture. Will Cruz filibuster? How can he? At this point, the bill under consideration is the one the House sent over, which includes the defunding language. He can hardly filibuster that.
2. Reid then offers an amendment to strike defunding from the bill.
3. Now Reid files cloture on the bill itself. Will Cruz filibuster? Again, how can he? At this point, this is still the original House bill, complete with the provision to defund Obamacare.
So, of course, that's precisely what he's going to do:
Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday that Republican senators should, in effect, filibuster the House-passed continuing resolution in the Senate.Establishment Republicans have made it clear that they don't want to filibuster that bill -- but if Cruz fails to round up enough Repulicans for a filibuster, he and his pals at Heritage Action and the Sente Conservatives Fund and other like-minded members of the anti-Obamacare-absolutist gang will just attack them in their next reelection bids, or in the 2016 presidential campaign. (I guarantee you that Mitch McConnell, determined to have no enemies on the right going into his 2014 reelection fight, will join Cruz's filibuster, as will Marco "Me, Too" Rubio. I guarantee you that the teabagger primary opponents of Lindsay Graham and Lamar Alexander will express unswerving support for what Cruz is doing.)
The Texas Republican is calling on his colleagues to oppose limiting debate on it....
And so the gang fight in the GOP continues to escalate.
And, of course, as Ezra Klein noted yesterday, John Boehner's decision to go along with the Cruz crusade has been escalating the tension in a way that really could lead to violence for a lot of innocent bystanders. You see, Cruz is highly unlikely to get enough votes for his Senate filibuster, which means that a bill that includes Obamacare funding will almost certainly go back to the House. And then...
Boehner isn't going to simply shrug, say he tried, and bring the Senate bill to the floor. He'll shrug, say he tried, and tell his members that they should let him bring the Senate bill to the floor. He'll say it's because they need to save their fire for the debt ceiling fight, where they can force the White House to delay Obamacare for a year by threatening to trigger a global financial crisis. In fact, this is already the message he's delivering to his members.Is there just something innately pathological about Republicans that prevents them from stepping away from a fight like this when their manhood is challenged? Are they just sociopathic superpredators by birth?
There's been a lot of talk -- much of it among Republicans -- about how irresponsible Ted Cruz is being in his fight to defund Obamacare or shut the government down trying. But Boehner and the rest of the House GOP leadership is being much more irresponsible in their promises to delay Obamacare or cause a global financial crisis while trying. And the way they're going to get past Cruz's irresponsible threats is to double down on their own, even more irresponsible, threats.