In a post I wrote on August 5th, I predicted that holding Obamacare hostage to a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government would fail. That in the resulting government shutdown, Republicans would be blamed, and that the whole misadventure would damage GOP prospects in the 2014 midterm elections.
So where are we?
Holding Obamacare hostage to the CR has completely failed. Indeed, holding individual pieces of Obamacare hostage to the CR has also failed. Harry Reid has the majority he needs to defeat any House initiatives that threaten Obamacare.
In addition, Republicans have taken the biggest hit in polling regarding the budget showdown and government shutdown. Fully 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the GOP.
And Republican prospects for 2014 are dimming rapidly. A left-leaning polling group, PPP, did a survey indicating that up to 24 GOP seats could be in jeopardy due to the shutdown. Nancy Pelosi only needs 17 seats to take back the Speaker’s Chair. Applying all appropriate cautions on the methodology for a left-leaning poll, this data should still send chills down the spines of Republican leaders.
In just a week, House Republicans have damaged themselves and their prospects with no apparent policy gain, real or imagined.
But even these facts don’t tell the whole story.
The stunning illogic of the current GOP course makes President Obama’s Syria policy look like mature statesmanship.
For starters, the Republicans want to have it both ways on shutdown. The House leadership has refused to fund the government because of differences with Democrats on Obamacare, but then they have immediately sought to cushion the effect of the shutdown that they triggered, first passing a bill to pay active duty military service personnel and then voicing righteous indignation that national monuments, protected by the federally funded National Park Service, are closed to citizens. The fact that there is anecdotal evidence of Administration hanky panky in attempting to maximize public anger over the shutdown by limited access to sites that should notionally require no federal supervision, does not free Republicans from their share of responsibility here.
Perhaps most startling is the GOP position on the furloughed federal workers. Having triggered the furlough by refusing to pass a clean CR, the House passed a bill to restore salaries to all affected employees when the government does open. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week. But what is that other than a paid vacation for federal workers? Is that the message the GOP wants to send?
And let me be clear here; I have no beef with federal workers. The vast majority of the federal work force are intelligent, dedicated public servants who work very hard under very challenging circumstances. The caricature of the lazy bureaucrat is vastly over-played. Federal workers are simply pawns here, with no control over their employment. But as a matter of politics, if a furlough was unavoidable, then the GOP is taking every step possible to undermine their own position by restoring funding before the shutdown is over.
It makes no sense. And worse, there still is no end-game.
Ted Cruz is out there, destroying the Republican brand every time he opens his mouth, still talking about defunding Obamacare, even though the last two weeks have proven that this goal is politically impossible. John Boehner and his team seem to be amenable to a bigger deal on taxes, spending and entitlements (the proper focus of a discussion on the debt ceiling) but there are bright red lines here as well that separate the President and Democrats from the Republicans. The GOP refuses to raise taxes and POTUS will not consider changes to entitlements without more revenue.
Perhaps most important right now, no one is talking. POTUS refuses to engage the Republicans until the government is funded. Republicans refuse to fund the government until Obama negotiates policy concessions as part of a larger funding deal.
And the far more economically consequential possibility of breaching the debt ceiling is only ten days away.
It is surreal.
The first rule of finding yourself in a ditch is to stop digging. Whatever the faults associated with the Democratic position – and there are many – this crisis was triggered by Republicans and it will be up to the GOP to initiate the action that leads to its resolution.
It’s time to recognize political reality, prevent economic ruin and salvage a political future.
In other words, Man up, Republicans.