House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.) announced Wednesday that a bill that would have averted a government shutdown would not go to a vote, due to Republican division on how to challenge President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Under the current House leadership's floor plan, the vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government would be split into two parts. The first part would continue to fund the government at current levels, while the second portion of the resolution would defund the Affordable Care Act. Due to a rule introduced in the House when debate over this resolution began, before the House Clerk sends the bill to the Senate to be voted on, the Senate must first vote on whether or not to defund the Affordable Care Act — a vote that Senate Democrats will certainly never allow.
The House leadership's plan is brilliant heading into the 2014 midterms. If the continuing resolution passes the House, the ball is finally placed in the court of Senate Democrats for the first time since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010. When the CR passes, Senate Democrats, many of whom are up for reelection in 2014 in vulnerable states, will no longer be able to beat around the bush, but instead must tell their constituents whether or not they support what is sure to be President Obama's biggest legacy while in office. It is reasonable to infer that most Democrats would vote "yes" to keep funding the Affordable Care Act, which could translate into a positive election strategy for Republicans in 2014.
The one problem in the House leadership's strategy is Tea Party representatives. The same Tea Party Republicans that rejoiced in the defeat of the Farm Bill in June and embarrassed Republicans on a national level are once again sowing the seeds of discord and threatening to turn a chance of regaining the Senate into a scenario in which the GOP could potentially lose the House in 2014.
This is my message to the Tea Party members who do not know what it is like to be in the minority party and don't know anything about governing: Trust your leadership and try to look at the big picture for once. Instant government does not happen overnight. Speaker Boehner isn't a dictator who can get rid of President Obama's laws on a whim. There is a legislative process that must be followed and Republicans have to play the game to get enough seats before real conservative change can occur. The Tea Party can get on its bully pulpit all it wants an accuse the House majority whip of "whipping votes for Obamacare," but where is that going to land Republicans if the government shuts down and Republicans lose the House next November?
The Tea Party may claim that Americans want a government shutdown, but wake up and smell the coffee — your caucus is disillusioned and has lost the PR war on every single front. The Tea Party caucus may point to the 1995-1996 government shutdown as a precedent that will give Republicans broader electoral possibilities. They are wrong. Americans are tired of dealing with government shutdowns every six months and are just ready to return to normalcy. A government shutdown at this point in time is sure to cripple any chance Republicans had at capturing the Senate in 2014.
The defeat of the Farm Bill was not a victory to celebrate. It was shameful. In a time when Republicans are vulnerable after losing the popular vote in the last four out of five presidential elections and are likely to lose the 2016 presidential election, party unity and cohesion are what is needed to carry the conservative message into the 21st century. Despite what the Tea Party caucus may think, House leadership is fighting for the same principles that they defend. The difference: the House leadership knows how to pick its battles and wait for the opportune moment to deliver a coup d'etat.
The House leaderships strategy is a strong one that can and will lead to GOP success in the 2014 midterms. In the meantime, Republican leadership needs to draw the red line on representatives who are continually detracting from the Republican message. The House leadership should rake these representatives over the coals, like the Democrats did with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Con.) when they threatened to strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees.
It is time for John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy to stand up to the Tea Party and let them know that they do not control the Republican party in the House and do not represent mainstream conservatives within the United States. That disunity at a vulnerable time for the party is not going to be tolerated. That they are their own men and not servants of demagogues. That the next time the Tea Party thinks about crossing the House leadership, sic sunt dracones — here be dragons.
After all, nobody wants to wake a dragon.