“I am running to be your Speaker,” wrote House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a letter to his Republican colleagues asking for their support in his bid to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House, “because I know that the People’s House works best when the leadership you elect listens to members and respects the legislative process entrusted to committees.”
It was a nice, subtle dig at Boehner, who is resigning on account of the somewhat generally accepted belief that Boehner neither listened to Republican members nor respected the legislative process entrusted to committees.
McCarthy may be running for perhaps the most thankless job in America, but he says that he is optimistic about the struggle that he will, hopefully, soon be facing. “There are challenges ahead,” he wrote, “but unified we have an amazing opportunity to make lasting conservative change. And I know when we work together under the banner of freedom and opportunity there is little that is out of our reach.”
Was he paying attention at all during Boehner’s Speakership?
It is hard to figure out why McCarthy wants to succeed Boehner in the first place, who is, for all intents and purposes, being run out of town by Congressional Tea Partiers angry with Boehner’s desire to avoid a government shutdown. Tea Partiers have overthrown Boehner simply because he has tried to fulfill his most basic responsibility as Speaker of the House, and unless McCarthy wants to be immediately overthrown himself he is surely going to have to shut down the government to appease House Tea Partiers. And the Tea Party Caucus is almost certainly going to try again to shut down the government, maybe as early as December since the current stopgap bill lasts only two months.
The Tea Party Caucus, to their credit, are standing up for their values, however, their idealism does not translate into actual Congressional action because they do not have the votes to pass any of their desired legislation. The Republican establishment that Tea Partiers routinely smear does not disagree with the Tea Party Caucus necessarily on anything, but more moderate Republicans are acting pragmatically. Despite the Tea Party’s rhetoric, Republicans do not have big enough majorities in Congress to pass the polarizing bills that the Tea Party Caucus wants.
So good luck to Mr. McCarthy, and hopefully, for the good of governmental sanity, he will not soon be facing the political guillotine of the House Tea Party Caucus that ousted Boehner. However, it appears that if McCarthy is elected Speaker he will soon be thrust into a shutdown catch-22 with his speakership doomed no matter which of two paradoxical options he chooses.
The first option is to spinelessly cave to the Tea Party and shut down the government in December over the invented Planned Parenthood controversy. Senate Republicans, especially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are very against this idea, and the Republican Party is very aware that a kinetic second shutdown in two years will make it much harder to win the 2016 presidential election. It would also mean that Boehner’s political sacrifice to avoid a shutdown was only good for two months.
The majority of Americans are also against a Planned Parenthood shutdown, and a Quinnipiac University poll published this week shows that only 23% of Americans support a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. The poll also shows that only 36% of Republicans support the proposed shutdown.
Without an even Republican majority of support a government shutdown will piss off Americans, and show that McCarthy is a weak Speaker, who cannot control his House. This is a loss for McCarthy.
McCarthy’s second option is to pass the budget without removing the Planned Parenthood funding. Because the Tea Party Caucus is against this, McCarthy would need Democrats’ votes in violation of the unofficial Hastert Rule. This would invite the Tea Party’s wrath, and most likely inspire them to try and politically guillotine McCarthy. Avoiding a government shutdown is a loss for McCarthy.
The only way out of this political quagmire is to treat the Tea Party Caucus as the separatist political faction that it is and to ignore Tea Party dreams of governmental dysfunction.
Ted Cruz was denied support earlier this week when he called for a pointless roll call vote to record Republicans’ opposition to Planned Parenthood funding, and no other Republican senators supported his motion. This may be a sign that Republicans are getting fed up with the political suicide attempts that the Tea Party Caucus keeps making, but with Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz running for president their outrageous political games will not be stopping any time soon.
“I look forward to fighting with you for our shared conservative principles,” said McCarthy at the end of his letter.
It seems like the only thing that the Tea Party is looking forward to is fighting against the next Speaker of the House.