October 16, 2013
Ted Cruz (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Ted Cruz (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

So the Senate has reached a deal, and the House GOP leadership will reportedly allow a vote on it, meaning this crisis is probably over. For now, anyway. How long until Republicans put us through all of this again?

It’s easy to make fun of GOP Rep. Peter King, but he was one of the few to call out GOP insanity from the inside early in this process. Now, in an interesting and entertaining interview with Capital New York, he’s calling for Republicans to wage war on Ted Cruz. King predicts the Texas Senator will try do this all again in a few months, and crucially, he points out that it’s on the non-crazy Republicans to prevent this from happening:

“He’s going to be coming back, rewriting history, saying, ‘We were on the verge of victory back in October, and we could have won if we’d just stayed in there another week.’ And he’s going to have phone calls being made, and he’s going to have town hall meetings. And he’s going to have all those support groups out there, threatening to downgrade people on their scorecards and all that stuff.” [...]

“I think it’s important for people in the Republican Party around the country not to just come in at the end and say, ‘Congress was dysfunctional,’ or ‘Congress screwed up.’ That’s too easy to do,” King said. “Say who it was. Because it wasn’t Congress. it was one person who was able to steamroll Congress and unless we target him for what he is, he’s going to do it again. So I’m hoping other Republicans will join me and start going after this guy, and say we’re not going to let it happen again.”

Oy. Yes, this is exactly what Cruz is going to do. He will claim that victory was at hand, if only the corrupt GOP establishment hadn’t gone all weak-kneed at the last minute. Remember, Ted Cruz’s strategy to liberate the country from Obamacare can’t have failed; it was failed.

But this whole fiasco is really on the GOP leadership. GOP leaders have spent weeks humoring, and capitulating to, the right’s insistence that they use maximalist tactics in the futile quest to destroy Obamacare, dangling the threat of economic havoc to extract unilateral Obamacare concessions that Democrats were never, ever going to give up. I’m sympathetic to the argument that Boehner had to take us up to the brink, to demonstrate to conservatives that their cause was hopeless, so the final surrender wouldn’t tear the caucus apart. And indeed today House conservatives are saying nice things about Boehner’s fortitude. But still, as Jonathan Cohn notes in a must read, Boehner’s refusal to stand up to the Tea Party has done a tremendous amount of damage.

What’s next?  The current deal extends the funding of the government into January and the debt limit into February. So Cruz and his acolytes may well agitate for another crisis. Democratic aides are confident GOP debt limit extortion is effectively dead. They acknowledge the Cruz-ites will try for another debt limit crisis, but can’t imagine GOP elites will humor this demand next time, when the 2014 elections are underway. And indeed, as Alex Seitz-Wald details, 2014 GOP candidates are already distancing themselves from such tactics.

But if the Cruzites do demand another round of crises, it will put rank and file Republican officials and candidates in a quandry.  It’s unlikely that the Cruzian zeal for confrontation — or the anger at the insufficiently zealous GOP establishment – will have diminished. Rush Limbaugh is already excoriating the GOP for trying too hard to make people “like them.” (Dude, if that’s true, it ain’t working.) Erick Erickson is muttering darkly about primary challenges.  As Francis Wilkinson explains: “The Republican Party is an object of contempt to many on the far right, whose adamant convictions threaten what they perceive as Republican complacency…they demand a higher level of fealty to their goals than pragmatic middle-of-the-roaders can bear.” Wilkinson concludes that this is forcing Boehner to choose between the Tea Party and “the hard obligations of government.”

That choice isn’t going away. So as Pete King says, it will be on the non-crazies to stand up to the insanity next time. I’m not optimistic, though. Are you?

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.