The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Morning Plum: Even Republicans are openly worried about GOP’s sabotage governing

The notion that GOP sabotage governing tactics could ultimately prove counter-productive and self defeating for the Republican Party is now being increasingly voiced by Republicans themselves.

They don’t call it “sabotage governing,” of course. But with Republicans hurtling towards another set of crises over the debt limit and funding the government — with the Quixotic quest to defund Obamacare at the center of the headlong rush forward — they are openly nervous about the GOP’s continued embrace of its intransigent scorched earth governing posture. A couple even suggest Republicans are flirting with an outcome that could cost Republicans the House in 2014.

Here’s GOP Rep. Tom Cole, an ally of the GOP leadership:

“The only two things that really risk the Republican majority in 2014 would be if we shut down the government or if we defaulted on the debt.”

Here’s Brock McCleary, a GOP pollster and former deputy executive director of the NRCC, which is in charge of winning House races for Republicans:

“If you ask me what is the one thing that could reshuffle the deck on an otherwise stable mid-term environment in 2014, the answer is a government shutdown. Convincing voters that the other side is to blame would become a game of high-stakes politics.”

Here’s GOP Senator Richard Burr:

“Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable by shutting down the federal government. At some point, you’re going to open the federal government back up, and Barack Obama is going to be president.”

This comes after GOP Senator Roy Blunt declared that the GOP drive to hold the debt limit hostage over Obamacare was a bad idea, and after Senator John McCain said the American people would not stand for another round of GOP debt limit and Obamacare “shenanigans.”

I don’t really place much stock in the idea that even the worst outcome could cost Republicans the House. But the rising worries among Republicans are noteworthy, because they suggest a growing recognition on their part that the GOP’s basic governing posture — one long embraced and encouraged by the leadership itself — is not tenable over the long term. This, for instance, is instructive:

Republican leaders are growing concerned by the fervor with which some members are demanding that Boehner defund the health care law as part of the government funding talks.

Pass the hanky! Republican leaders who have fed the GOP base’s repeal fantasies for literally years — for deeply cynical purposes — are now concerned that Tea Party lawmakers actually take the prospects for repeal seriously!

However deep this schism really proves in practice, the concerns being publicly voiced by Republicans could matter for this fall’s showdowns in another way. More public disunity from Republicans about their tactics — even as Dems remain relatively united behind their insistence that they won’t negotiate over the debt limit and will continue to demand new revenues as part of any budget deal — will only encourage the White House to hold a harder line.

* WHITE HOUSE HARDENS BUDGET STANCE: Indeed, related to the above: The Post reports that the White House is mulling adopting a hard stance going into this fall’s showdown over the budget, the sequester, and the debt ceiling — one that could very well result in a government shutdown. This is striking:

White House officials also are discussing a potential strategy to try to stop the sequestration cuts from continuing, the lawmakers and Democrats said. Under this scenario, the president might refuse to sign a new funding measure that did not roll back the sequester. No decision has been made.

It seems obvious Obama would prefer a big “grand bargain” budget deal to resolve all these issues — even one that would irk his base. But again, if more Republicans keep openly breaking with the GOP’s confrontational strategy, it will embolden the White House to hold firm.

* A NEW, AGGRESSIVE JOHN BOEHNER? National Journal reports that the House Speaker is prepping to get far more aggressive in leading his caucus when it comes to uniting the party in the coming battles over the debt limit and the government shutdown. True or not, conspicuously absent is any word on whether he’ll try to more forcefully lead his caucus on immigration. And again: immigration reform’s prospects are entirely on John Boehner. If he wants it to pass, it can pass.

* HOUSE CONSERVATIVES JOIN PUSH TO DEFUND OBAMACARE: More than 60 House Republicans send a letter to the GOP leadership insisting that any funding of the government this fall must include the defunding of the Affordable Care Act, joining them to a bloc of hard right Senators who are urging the same. Boehner has insisted that no decision has been made on how to approach the defund-Obamacare demand, so here is a looming test for that new, aggressive Boehner.

* KEEP AN EYE ON GEORGIA: Another interesting tidbit from the above story on House Republicans insisting on defunding Obamacare:

Three Georgia GOP Senate candidates — Reps. Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun — signed on.

Dems hope Republicans will nominate an ultra-conservative Senate candidate in Georgia, which is emerging as something of a firewall for them: If Dems can somehow win there, Republicans need to knock off four Dem incumbents to take back the Senate.


“I see it as Obama is threatening to shut down the government unless we fund Obamacare.”

Look, I know Rubio has to make amends with the right for daring to trying to solve the immigration problem in a constructive, bipartisan manner, but if this is really the kind of thing you have to tell GOP base voters to make them happy, we’re in worse trouble than I thought.

* GOP DEBT CEILING STANDOFF IS NOT TYPICAL OPPOSITION: Paul Krugman makes the point so many refuse to reckon with: Republican leaders are threatening an outcome that they themselves have admitted would destroy the economy in pursuit of their Obamacare repeal fantasies:

Will Republicans actually take us to the brink? If they do, it will be crucial to understand why they would do such a thing, when their own leaders have admitted that confrontations over the budget inflict substantial harm on the economy. It won’t be because they fear the budget deficit, which is coming down fast. Nor will it be because they sincerely believe that spending cuts produce prosperity. No, Republicans may be willing to risk economic and financial crisis solely in order to deny essential health care and financial security to millions of their fellow Americans.

ICYMI: Here are two examples of Boehner previously telling roomfuls of reporters that not raising the debt limit risks the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.


Absolute must read from Jonathan Bernstein, who rightly notes that House Republicans do have an easy way out on immigration reform that’s right there in plain sight, if only they’ll avail themselves of it.

Keep an eye on this one: Will Colorado voters rebuff the gun lobby’s attempt to recall two lawmakers who dared vote for sensible gun control measures in the wake of the Newtown massacre?

Mike Lux makes the case against Larry Summers, Obama’s rumored pick for Chair of the Federal Reserve, noting that it would badly undermine the populist posture he struck in his speech this week.

A new Post poll finds that only 28 percent of Americans now think the Afghanistan war is worth fighting.

Organizing for Action goes up on the air with a new ad supporting the President’s speech on the economy. I don’t know how much of a difference this will make, but anything pushing back on the austerity narrative is welcome.

Byron York: No, Republicans are not going to defund Obamacare.

Jared Bernstein on a simple way to gain 900,000 jobs: Cancel the sequester.

Tweet of the morning, from Peter Beinart: “Here’s a novel way for GOP to reach out to minorities: Stop making it harder for them to vote.” Relevant link here.