Friday, September 20, 2013

How Much Of A Role Do Right-Wing Snake Oil Salesmen And Greed-Driven Hucksters Have In The GOP Effort To Shut Down The Government?


Disasters are good for the media. Disasters drive up ratings and allow increases in ad rates. And in the world of professional fundraisers... there's gold in them thar hills-- lots of it. Yesterday one wag tweeted that a GOP House leadership aide, presumably someone from Cantor's office, accused unhinged Texas Senator Ted Cruz of being the head of a left-wing cabal to destroy the Republican Party from within. Karl Rove may be thinking along the same lines! From his Thursday morning OpEd in the Wall Street Journal. He started with a tutorial about how the base alone won't win election and how the GOP does best when they can persuade independents. "In 2010," he pointed out, "56% of independents voted for GOP congressional candidates, up from 43% in 2008 and 39% in 2006." And he says independents are leaning towards Republicans now as well... and therein lies the rub.
There is, however, one issue on which independents disagree with Republicans: using the threat of a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare. By 58% to 30% in the GPS poll, they oppose defunding ObamaCare if that risks even a temporary shutdown.

This may be because it is (understandably) hard to see the endgame of the defund strategy. House Republicans could pass a bill that funds the government while killing all ObamaCare spending. But the Democratic Senate could just amend the measure to restore funding and send it back to the House. What then? Even the defund strategy's authors say they don't want a government shutdown. But their approach means we'll get one.

After all, avoiding a shutdown would require, first, at least five Senate Democrats voting to defund ObamaCare. But not a single Senate Democrat says he'll do that, and there is no prospect of winning one over.

Second, assuming enough Senate Democrats materialize to defund ObamaCare, the measure faces a presidential veto. Republicans would need 54 House Democrats and 21 Senate Democrats to vote to override the president's veto. No sentient being believes that will happen.

So what would the public reaction be to a shutdown? Some observers point to the 1995 shutdown, saying the GOP didn't suffer much in the 1996 election. They are partially correct: Republicans did pick up two Senate seats in 1996. But the GOP also lost three House seats, seven of the 11 gubernatorial races that year, a net of 53 state legislative seats and the White House.

A shutdown now would have much worse fallout than the one in 1995. Back then, seven of the government's 13 appropriations bills had been signed into law, including the two that funded the military. So most of the government was untouched by the shutdown. Many of the unfunded agencies kept operating at a reduced level for the shutdown's three weeks by using funds from past fiscal years.

But this 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.

The only agencies allowed to operate with unsalaried employees will be those that meet one or more of the following legal tests: They must be responding to "imminent" emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, be funded by mandatory spending (such as Social Security), have funds from prior fiscal years that have already been obligated, or rely on the constitutional power of the president. Figuring out which agencies meet these tests will be tough, but much of the federal government will lack legal authority to function.

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.

The desire to strike at ObamaCare is praiseworthy. But any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively.

The defunding strategy doesn't. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.
And, although Boehner and Cantor didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up Cruz and the raving lunatics in their own caucus who want to shut down the government-- typically extreme right-wingers in unassailably red districts where Democrats rarely even run credible candidates-- there are plenty of Republicans furious about their caucus following this catastrophic, losing strategy. Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman are going to get reelected anyway. But what about Republicans in swing districts. This is a list of Republican congressmen who can only win by taking a majority of independent voters. These are the ones who are the most scared by the Confederates who are pushing the "Shut It Down" strategy. The only thing that will save their skins is the sheer incompetence of DCCC Chairman Steve Israel. If there was a competent DCCC Chair nearly all of these incumbents would be looking for jobs on K Street next year:
Paul Ryan (WI)
Buck McKeon (CA)
Tom Reed (NY)
Tim Walberg (MI)
Frank Wolf (VA)
Michael Grimm (NY)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)
Mike Rogers (MI)
Charlie Dent (PA)
John Kline (MN)
Scott Rigell (VA)
Pat Meehan (PA)
Erk Paulsen (MN)
Jim Gerlach (PA)
Sean Duffy (WI)
Reid Ribble (WI)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
Bill Young (FL)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Jeff Denham (CA)
Fred Upton (MI)
Michael Fitzpatrick (PA)
Peter King (NY)
Jon Runyan (NJ)
Joe Heck (NV)
Tom Latham (IA)
Rodney Davis (IL)
Mike Coffman (CO)
Chris Gibson (NY)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
David Valadao (CA)
Gary Miller (CA)
Every one of those GOP incumbents-- notice none are from the Deep South-- sits in a district with an R+3 or bluer district. None are red enough to win by appealing to the Republican base as long as Democrats are enthusiastic enough to turn out on election day-- which is how Steve Israel's incompetence and malevolence protects Republicans. And every one of these districts is a district Obama won in 2008 and/or 2012. These are 32 districts that the Democrats should be able to win if the GOP goes through with their plan to shut down the government... except Steve Israel hasn't recruited good candidates in most of them-- and in many of these districts, he hasn't bothered to recruit any candidates at all. Is Nancy Pelosi still awake a few hours a day?

Tom Cole (R-OK) is in a safe red district. He used to be the chairman of the NRCC. This week he said that “The only way Republicans will lose the House is to shut down the government or default on the debt. Shutting down the government is not in the best interests of the American people and it makes you look politically irresponsible.” In August, Paul Ryan, who's reelection could be in jeopardy if Rob Zerban runs against him and is supported by the DCCC instead of sabotaged, told Face the Nation “Rather than sort of swinging for the fences and take this entire law out … I think there are more effective ways of achieving that goal. We think we can do better by delaying this law… I think there is going to be a better strategy to actually achieve our goal of ultimately delaying and ultimately replacing Obamacare.” Ryan is shaking in his loafers.

Peter King (R-NY) has been protected by Israel, despite Obama having won his blue Long Island district in 2008 and again last year. But even he;s scared (although Israel is keeping anyone from running against him). Earlier this summer he told CNN's State of the Nation that “There’s no reason to be threatening to bring down the government, let’s make this work... get spending cuts we need but the American people get turned off with the threat of terror politics.” Last week even Koch-owned Wisconsin governor Scott Walker joined other Republican governors warning House Republicans not to blow the whole goose that's laying the golden eggs for them. “I have made the case that Obamacare is not good for the economy, but I have some real concerns about potentially doing something that would have a negative impact on the economy just for the short term-- I think there are other ways to pursue this.”

House Republicans in swing districts are begging Cantor and Boehner to allow them to vote with the Democrats today against the proposal. Some endangered Republicans, like Mike Fitzpatrick, aren't waiting for permission and have already announced Boehner and Cantor can take this bill and shove it. Don't lose sight of the polling these swing district Republicans have all seen and are all worried about. As Greg Sargent pointed out yesterday at the Washington Post, "Among Republicans who believe that not raising the debt ceiling would cause serious harm to the economy, a majority of them wants Congress not to raise it anyway. By contrast, Americans overall see it in the opposite way... Independents who say not raising it would cause serious harm also tilt in favor of raising it by 58-36... Republicans want Congress not to raise the debt ceiling, even if it would cause widespread economic harm." Let's watch that list above today and see who votes with the nihilists and who votes with the American people.

This morning, Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) continued his blistering criticism of Cruz, complaining that he "abused" and "bullied" House conservatives into a strategy that's going nowhere.
"I have to tell you what," Duffy told Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough on Friday.

"You should have been on the floor back in the cloak room. There was so much anger, so much frustration. Because, again, we've been abused by these guys for so long. What I see happening now is people coming out and calling them out for the hypocrisy of these big, tough conservatives who know how to fight but will never get in the ring."

House Republicans have been angry-- publicly-- at Cruz since Wednesday, when he released a statement that Duffy said then was akin to "waving the white flag" and surrendering on Obamacare defunding. Cruz-- along with Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have been the leaders of the "defund" scheme that most Republicans agree has no chance of passing the Senate.

With 10 days until a possible government shutdown, Republicans are worried they'll get heaped with the blame for a no-end strategy.

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