Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Surrender Caucus: Ted Cruz Gives Up?

Wave It?
Yesterday conservatives got everything they wanted from the House: Boehner decided to move ahead with the Defund strategy, producing a Continuing Resolution that will kill a bunch of ObamaCare--if it can just pass the Senate--and then they can mind-control Obama to sign it. This is what conservatives have been asking for, figuring that if the government shuts down Obama will have no choice but to capitulate.

Of course it won't get that far--and everyone knows it (it'll stop in the Senate).

When Ted Cruz said so, admitting there were not enough votes in the Senate, people in the House got very angry with him. Why is this? Here are some possibilities:
  1. It ensures defeat. Once you say it won't pass--and you're on the team of guys trying to pass it--it gives cover to the actual people who don't pass it. After all, Cruz said it was DOA.
  2. It has been said all along that various representatives, potentially including Cruz (although he has been very careful with his terms) have made it sound possible too easy to Defund the ACA that way. In other words, the base has been lied to. Now, still believing the lie, when Cruz baldly states it won't happen the way they thought it would, they're mad.
  3. Cruz told the House they will need to stand firm. They were tossing the hot-potato of negative ratings to Cruz telling him "We did our part: work your magic, magic-man!" When he threw it back, it's like: "Uh ... the grenade fuse is fizzling--nuh-uh, buddy: this is yours to keep!" So they're peeved.
  4. While there might be time for a Delay Maneuver (scrap the total-victory Defund for simply holding off on the ACA's implementation starting in October) Cruz's admission basically says "Welp, you tried it my way--and my way isn't going to work. Too bad we didn't do it your way, huh?"
The truth is that it's a little of all of these: this move is not so much suicidal as it is very risky. No one really knows what will happen in the next 10 days. Some possibilities are:
  1. SINO: Shutdown In Name Only. A few days of shutdown closes some national parks, satisfies the base that, hey, they tried, and then more productive things happen. Basically life goes on.
  2. Surprise Compromise: Obama, the Senate, and the House agree to something at least semi-reasonable (maybe keeping the sequester? I dunno). But it could happen and while the particulars would likely make no one very happy, perhaps pressure will create a diamond.
  3. Ka-Boom: Ratings fall. The public blames someone HARD. Someone folds. Someone wins.
There are other scenarios--but people are afraid it'll be #3--but banking on #1. This is especially true as history and polling suggests that if it's #3 it'll fall on House Republicans. Here is Karl Rove:
[T]his time, no appropriations bills have been signed into law, so no discretionary spending is in place for any part of the federal government. Washington won't be able to pay military families or any other federal employee. While conscientious FBI and Border Patrol agents, prison guards, air-traffic controllers and other federal employees may keep showing up for work, they won't get paychecks, just IOUs.
And ...
But won't voters be swayed by the arguments for defunding? The GPS poll tested the key arguments put forward by advocates of defunding and Mr. Obama's response. Independents went with Mr. Obama's counterpunch 57% to 35%. Voters in Senate battleground states sided with him 59% to 33%. In lean-Republican congressional districts and in swing congressional districts, Mr. Obama won by 56% to 39% and 58% to 33%, respectively. On the other hand, independents support by 51% to 42% delaying ObamaCare's mandate that individuals buy coverage or pay a fine.
In other words: it could be bad.

What Now?
No one knows--the White House is apparently planning for a shutdown and the rhetoric remains pretty heated. I had thought the results would be more mild--but looking at Rove's analysis I think that no one has any tolerance for not-paying military families. If that happens things are going to go nuclear quickly.

If Cruz decides he can't firewall the damage in the House he's going to have to back off on the strategy instead of just the responsibility for it ... But I'm not sure even he has the credibility to do that.

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