Conservatives have discovered that ending the career of the third most powerful public official in the world and hijacking the U.S. Congress is pretty easy.
It doesn’t even take a majority of both houses — though Republicans have that — it just takes a few dozen House members who are ready to burn some shit down.
Meet the House Freedom Caucus — a group of about 40 Congress members who represent districts so white that they shouldn’t be allowed to exist past Labor Day. Without their support, no Republican can get the 218 votes needed to become the next Speaker of the House.
What does the House Freedom Caucus want?
Think Progress‘ Judd Legum looked at a questionnaire from the group and discerned two huge demands the group is making of prospective candidates who want to lead the House:
- Do not raise the debt limit without cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
- Do not fund the government unless the president agrees to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, junk the Iran nuclear deal and begin deporting law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
On point 1, the president has refused to ever negotiate to raise the debt limit ever again for the simple fact is it must be raised or America and the globe will face a financial crisis possibly worse than 2008. Paying the bills Congress has chosen to incur is literally Congress’ constitutional duty.
Point 2 is a demand to repeat the 2013 shutdown but this time making more demands including defunding the incredibly popular — given our polarized times — Planned Parenthood.
These are fights that would do infinite amounts of good for the Democratic Party and wreck incalculable damage to an American economy to has finally fought off the Great Recession and is experiencing the fewest layoffs in 42-years.
The easy solution is for Speaker Boehner to resolve both of these issues before he leaves office with Democratic votes. Keeping the governing functioning with the help of Democrats — while extracting immiseration of the poor for the benefit of the rich— is Boehner’s unforgivable crime to the folks who make up the Freedom Caucus.
Doing it again one last time, freeing his caucus from drawn out purity struggle during primary season and avoiding a debacle on Capitol Hill before the 2016 election would be a huge favor to his party’s establishment and a solid thumb up the butts of his detractors.
If Boehner pulls this off, you could argue that his party is in better shape now without failed Speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy — who has proven to be pretty terrible at his job.
If Boehner can’t pull it together, we’re left ultra conservatives who would rather implode their party than recognize the legitimacy of our democracy.
Conservatives refuse to believe that not having the presidency is no excuse for not behaving as if you have it. They prefer repeal votes, debt defaults and shutdowns to governance. And the GOP establishment knows this is untenable yet encourages that kind of nihilism by feeding delusions that allow the Republican Party to stand out as the conservative party in the world that doesn’t accept the science behind climate change.
Republican leaders know the stakes have never been higher than they will be for than the 2016 election. If they win, they would control the Supreme Court for decades. If they lose, the crackup the party is facing between those who would rather burn down the house than live in it will be inevitable.
But first we need to get through the next few months without conservatives leading us off a cliff just because they think its their God-given right to fly.