An analysis this past week by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics found that 94 of the House’s 233 Republicans come from districts in which GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney got 60 percent or more of the vote. Practically speaking, that means they come from areas so conservative that they have more to fear from a primary challenger on the right than they do from a Democrat in a general election.
The Senate, on the other hand, is a vastly different political landscape.
Although firebrands led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) have been egging on their party for a showdown, other Republicans in the Senate fear that overreaching now could squander their chance of regaining a majority in next year’s midterm elections.
Besides that, it won’t work.
“We would be telling people that we’re defunding Obamacare when we really aren’t — so little of it is contained in annual appropriations,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has strong credentials on the right. “We’re held in low-enough regard without telling people we’re doing something when we really aren’t.”
Nor will a bill that defunds the health-care law survive the Senate — a fact Cruz conceded after the House passed the measure he had pushed for so strenuously.
Under the Senate rules, Reid needs only 51 votes to defeat the Cruz-backed amendment that would eliminate spending for the health-care law. With 54 members in his caucus, it is a cinch he can get them.
So the only option left for Cruz to obstruct passage of a stopgap spending measure sets up a truly perverse situation — he can filibuster the House-passed bill when it comes to the Senate, even though that means blocking the very Obamacare-defunding measure that he and his allies worked so hard to get the House to approve.
On Saturday, the conservative organization Heritage Action for America sent out a bulletin urging senators to do just that. But the whole thing has left flummoxed Senate Republicans wondering what kind of double somersault it would take to explain all of this to their constituents back home.
Meanwhile, back in the House, Boehner and his forces are struggling to figure out an endgame. They will have to scramble, because Reid is expected to wait until the last minute to return a Senate-passed bill to their chamber.
In other words, the week ahead promises yet another installment of cliffhanger legislating, Washington’s new normal. And then, it’s on to the next crisis.