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Cruz and the Defeat Caucus

Peter Suderman reviews [1] recent Republican efforts in Congress and finds them severely wanting:

Right now the GOP has no strategic or tactical savvy. Instead, the party has a surfeit of bluster.

The appeal of such aggresssive tactics is perhaps understandable given the Obama administration’s deeply frustrating policy choices. But they would be far more appealing if they offered any chance of victory. What the failed defunding fight makes clear is that there’s little if any substantive advantage in this approach.

Suderman acknowledges the limits of what the GOP can do when it controls just one house of Congress, but adds that recognizing these limits is exactly what some Republicans in Congress are failing to do. Instead of trying to “work effectively within those limits, exploiting clear opposition weak points and pushing for narrow victories that stand some change of being accomplished,” they have opted for trying to achieve unobtainable goals with tactics that have split their own party. This approach places great value on zeal and combativeness and isn’t very concerned with success. For that reason, it won’t produce the desired results at an acceptable political price. Cruz has railed against Republican defeatism, but in practice Cruz has made himself the leader of what one might call the defeat caucus.

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If there were reason to believe that the Cruz approach made it more likely for Republicans to take control of the Senate, one could at least make a narrowly political argument that it advances the party’s electoral prospects, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. At best, this approach doesn’t seem to improve Republican electoral chances. At worst, it could hurt them in close races and potentially prevent them from picking up enough seats to have a majority. To the extent that the theatrics of the last week contribute to a government shutdown, that will likely sour the public even more on Republicans in Congress and that might end up undermining Republican candidates in competitive states.

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75 Comments To "Cruz and the Defeat Caucus"

#1 Comment By JonF On September 28, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

Re: So I would be grateful for more experienced hands to explain to me why the stand taken to defund Obamacare, or any government program, if supported by one House of Congress, is bound to fail

The ACA is already funded. Nothing Congress is currently voting on will defund it.

#2 Comment By Bobby On September 29, 2013 @ 12:01 am

This has been interesting reading. I’m a conservative, but I believe that the House’s conduct here is fundamentally corrupt and utterly inimical to the principles of the Constitution. The ACA was debated vigorously back in 2009, and we who opposed the bill lost. Unless we’re able to gain control of the Presidency, the Senate, and the House, we have to accept Obamacare as a reality. It is simply evil to threaten to tank the economy (and thereby place hundreds of thousands of families into financial hardship) as a condition of achieving something that the opponents of the ACA lack the political power to accomplish legitimately.

There have been a number of opportunities to join with some right-leaning Democrats and modify certain aspects of the law. But the GOP has been too interested in grandstanding to accomplish anything of the sort.

I’m starting to wonder whether it isn’t time to just give the GOP over to the crazies. Meanwhile, those of us who care about procedural integrity can cross the aisle and give greater strength to the Blue Dog coalition. After all, John C. Calhoun was a Democrat.

Besides, all this talk of political outcomes, notably by KF and Dalton, betrays that they know nothing whatsoever about the roots of conservatism. For true conservatives, process is more important than outcome. In that sense, there is nothing conservative about what the House GOP is doing now. To the contrary, it is more reminiscent of the tactics of the Jacobins.

#3 Comment By AnotherBeliever On September 29, 2013 @ 12:57 am

What JonF said. Obamacare is already the law. A minority party which controls one half of Congress is not enough to overcome the Senate majority of the opposite party AND the veto power of a President from the opposite party, when the opposite party is completely opposed the proposal (in this case, ending Obamacare.) It simply isn’t feasible. Taking the government over the brink with a shutdown, and/or taking the global economy over the brink with a default on our sovereign debt will not change this fact. Obamacare is not funded out of the discretionary appropriations that will be shutdown on Tuesday if Congress does not come to an agreement. It WILL do considerable harm to your party, the country, and possibly the global economy. Those are the facts. Anyone telling you different is trying to sell something, to paraphrase “The Princess Bride.”

#4 Comment By Puller58 On September 29, 2013 @ 6:25 am

The keystone to the ACA is the insurance industry and its lobbying going back to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare fiasco. Can you guess why the GOP says nary a word about it?

#5 Comment By Flavius On September 29, 2013 @ 10:19 am

Tsk, tsk. The Capital Beltway crashes into America for the second time in a month and nobody can believe it or knows what to make of it. I wonder how many American’s are feeling its pain? All? Some? None?

#6 Comment By Richard Parker On September 29, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

KF at 8:19 pm

“We are becoming paralyzed by fear, and it will harm us far worse eventually than accepting some lessor pain now.”

The pain may happen tomorrow or the next day or next week, but for today we party on.

The most of the under 30’s are very different; they want to be taken care of by a strong central government.

#7 Comment By jamie On September 29, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

“The ACA is already funded. Nothing Congress is currently voting on will defund it.”

Well, the House’s CR would. It’s bound to fail for a bunch of other reasons:

* On Tuesday, enrollments begin in the states. At that point “delay” bills become a dead letter and only “repeal” or “defund” measures become effective. That’s why all this nonsense is happening this particular week.

* Tuesday’s headlines are probably going to read, in effect, “Congress Tries to Delay Exchanges; Exchanges Open Today.” There will be some news coverage of the shutdown this week, but the news hole for “News You Can Use” is going to be utterly occupied by “How do I use the exchange website?” stories, followed by the inevitable “Most of us don’t have to do anything” stories.

* When insurance companies start underwriting exchange plans, “defund” bills become almost impossible because the beneficiaries are all counting on subsidies in order to make ends meet, as are the insurance companies. Defunding would effectively pass the Vitter amendment on 20% or so of the American people.

* With people on exchanges, “Repeal” becomes a matter of ruining widows and orphans.

Basically by Friday, a shutdown serves no purpose, at that point there’s no bill that even the Republican caucus could get behind. They’ll know they hate Obamacare, but they won’t be able to prevaricate by “delaying” it, and the various killing measures will gore too many oxes among their own number.

#8 Comment By balconesfault On September 29, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

@Bobby There have been a number of opportunities to join with some right-leaning Democrats and modify certain aspects of the law. But the GOP has been too interested in grandstanding to accomplish anything of the sort.

This. And that behavior goes all the way back to Max Baucus keeping the bill going in his Finance Committee, long after 3 other Senate Committees had passed along their versions of the ACA, imploring Republicans on the committee to join with him in crafting some compromise legislation that one or two of them would help vote out of committee, so it wouldn’t just be along party lines.

Instead you had the likes of Chuck Grassley, even after measures he called for were incorporated into the bill, running around screaming “Death Panels”.

As a result of Republican tactics during the process, undue power was given to the likes of Senators Bayh and Lieberman and Nelson and Baucus who seemed determined to make sure that interests of big Pharma and big Insurance were served.

Had the unified 40 Republican Bloc not made a filibuster an everpresent threat throughout the ACA debate in the Senate, Reid could have been horse trading between a handful of Democratic Senators and created a bill that was much better for the American taxpayer while expanding healthcare coverage, rather than having to roll over for special interests in order to keep his 60-vote Dem caucus together.

Meanwhile, Obama has repeatedly called for Republicans with a real interest in improving the ACA, rather than just torpedoing it, to come to the table to craft legislative fixes. I guess we’re going to have to keep waiting, because the reality is that the GOP wants the worst healthcare bill possible so they can score points … rather than the best healthcare bill possible so they can serve their constituents interests.

#9 Comment By Bobby On September 29, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

@balconesfault

I was speaking of the GOP’s conduct after the enactment of the ACA. But you’re right. The GOP’s conduct during its enactment was equally egregious. Too many in the GOP caucus were merely interested in opposing the President, regardless of what he proposed. In today’s GOP, governing is nothing more than proffering knee=jerk opposition to the other Party. Buckley would be rolling over in his grave.

And why is that the case? Because most GOP politicians these days are posturing and preening to garner the votes of a bunch of half-witted evangelicals who spend their days pondering conspiracy theories and end-times scenarios. The GOP has become the equivalent of the Know Nothing movement of the 1850s. Ironically, the Know Nothings arose out of the demise of the Whig Party, which fractured irreparably after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Maybe the coming week will be the GOP’s equivalent of those events.

#10 Comment By Bobby On September 29, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

@Jamie

Agreed. At 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Eastern Daylight Time, Obamacare will be here to stay. It will get tweaked a bit here and a bit there. But there will be no going back.

Of course, I have a great recommendation to those who don’t like the health-care system that we’re moving to: Eat better and exercise, and thereby obviate the need for it. It’s a beautiful day in the Midwest. The sky is a bright azure and the trees are just a week or two away from peak color. I just got back from a 12-mile run in an nearby forest preserve. Sadly, I practically had the place to myself. What a shame!

#11 Comment By Richard Johnson On September 29, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

“Reading these comments proves to be a nauseating undertaking. Since when is the conservative position to surrender and give in to the majority?”

When that conservative position has lost as badly as it did in 2012.

#12 Comment By Glaivester On September 29, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

I’m starting to wonder whether it isn’t time to just give the GOP over to the crazies. Meanwhile, those of us who care about procedural integrity can cross the aisle and give greater strength to the Blue Dog coalition. After all, John C. Calhoun was a Democrat.

Obama is unilaterally delaying several aspects of the ACA. He is also unilaterally declaring that U.S. immigration law will not be enforced. To pretend that the Democrats have any concern for “procedural integrity” is intellectually dishonest.

#13 Comment By Jack On September 29, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

@Bobby:

It is simply evil to threaten to tank the economy…as a condition of achieving something that the opponents of the ACA lack the political power to accomplish legitimately.

Well of course there are those who will insist that it is Obama who is threatening to tank the economy by refusing to budge, but I think the real stumbling block for the GOP (both the establishment and Tea Party wings) is that last word you used:

Legitimately.

The once grand Old Party has spent so much of the last couple decades convincing themselves that they are the default “Party of America” that it has probably not even crossed their minds that they’ve lost the political power to accomplish things legitimately. They apparently believe that anything they do in pursuit of their policies is legitimate. Believing (as it appears they do) that they are the Chosen Ones, the ends justify the means.

The hard truth that conservatives must face is that in the last election, more than half of the American electorate sided with the Democrats. If this fact cannot be faced, then the question of “how can we win back the majority of the American people?” cannot be answered.

You said:

Unless we’re able to gain control of the Presidency, the Senate, and the House, we have to accept Obamacare as a reality.

I’d counter that the first step is to accept reality…period. The next step is to figure out a way forward that puts reasonable and rational conservatives back in charge of the party, and then the task at hand is to win back the favor of the American people.

#14 Comment By Glaivester On September 29, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

I’m starting to wonder whether it isn’t time to just give the GOP over to the crazies.

That you don’t see that the Democrats are completely given over to their crazies tells me all I need to about you. The Democrats in the Senate voted unanimously to vastly increase immigration while legalizing essentially all who came here illegally and legalizing future illegal aliens as well. Do you honestly think this won’t destroy any national unity and turn us into Yugoslavia?

Obama is also hell-bent on destroying all local zoning laws in order to forcibly diversify the U.S.

Anyone who can only see craziness on the Republican side has something wrong with them.

#15 Comment By Glaivester On September 29, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

And why would Republicam electoral losses next year be a bad thing? They deserve to lose. Perhaps only repeated losses at the polls will knock some sense into them.

After two years of Obama and a fully-Democrat-controlled Congress, what difference would a “sensible” GOP make? You honestly seem to think that the policies of Obama are simply more “normal” change, and that with a “sensible” GOP, the country will continue on as it has. Your hatred of the GOP is blinding you to the globalist destruction that is being waged.

#16 Comment By jamie On September 30, 2013 @ 1:01 am

The Democrats in the Senate voted unanimously to vastly increase immigration while legalizing essentially all who came here illegally and legalizing future illegal aliens as well. Do you honestly think this won’t destroy any national unity and turn us into Yugoslavia?

I’m not sure how a WW1 successor state, held together by a military strongman only to collapse when its communist benefactor is remotely comparable.

If you find your argument works word-for-word when “Mexican” is replaced with “Irish” and “next year” is replaced with “1908,” don’t even bother. I don’t see how a reform a Reagan would have signed off on in the 1980s, in fact a reform significantly less liberal than the one he did, is suddenly profound corruption of America’s civic blood.

Obama is also hell-bent on destroying all local zoning laws in order to forcibly diversify the U.S.

With has Agenda 21 UN black helicopters, no doubt. What is your basis for this claim?

Anyone who can only see craziness on the Republican side has something wrong with them.

I have a proposal for paying off the US National Debt. It’s very simple: every time a conservative appeals to the tu quoque fallacy in a blog comment, he must contribute a quarter to the US Treasury. We should have China paid off in about two weeks.

#17 Comment By Glaivester On September 30, 2013 @ 10:12 am

I don’t see how a reform a Reagan would have signed off on in the 1980s, in fact a reform significantly less liberal than the one he did, is suddenly profound corruption of America’s civic blood.

Because the numbers are a lot higher now. With Reagan it was only a few million. Now the lowest estimates are 11 million. Moreover, Reagan’s reforms were supposed to solve the illegal alien problem once and for all. Seeing as they obviously were a rank failure, with illegal immigration increasing afterwards, why should we repeat failure?

If you find your argument works word-for-word when “Mexican” is replaced with “Irish” and “next year” is replaced with “1908,” don’t even bother.

When the Irish immigration wave hit, our country was very big on assimilation, and it did not have affirmative action or a huge welfare state. Nowadays, we encourage people to consider themselves a separate ethnic group and to be on the lookout for white racism.

The situations are not even remotely similar.

With has Agenda 21 UN black helicopters, no doubt. What is your basis for this claim?

Okay, read [2].

And lest you think they are not serious, they are trying to withhold HUD grants from Westchester New York unless they let the federal government determine their zoning laws, despite report after report that shows the laws are not racially discriminatory.

It’s very simple: every time a conservative appeals to the tu quoque fallacy in a blog comment, he must contribute a quarter to the US Treasury.

It’s only a fallacy if we are looking at absolutes and not comparisons. If you say “the GOP is crazy, so I am going to become and independent,” the Democrats are irrelevant. If you say “The GOP is crazy, so I am going to become a Democrat,” then it is not fallacious to point out how crazy the Democrats are.

I also have a simple idea: Every time someone cries “tu quoque” to justify their double standard, they should pay five dollars to the Treasury.

#18 Comment By Barry On September 30, 2013 @ 10:18 am

Bobby: “After all, John C. Calhoun was a Democrat.”

Calhoun was precisely the sort of guy who’d be a nihilistic ‘my way or I trash the place’ Tea Party leader.

#19 Comment By Dan L On September 30, 2013 @ 10:29 am

@Bobby

And why is that the case? Because most GOP politicians these days are posturing and preening to garner the votes of a bunch of half-witted evangelicals who spend their days pondering conspiracy theories and end-times scenarios.

I think it is a different “faith” than this which is the biggest problem in the Republican party. It is the belief that the big battle within US politics is between capitalism and socialism. I have read more from Evangelicals who understand the folly in this belief than from respectable business men, who are supposed to be the ones grounded in logic.

No one here has all of the things they love without some sort of federal government contribution and neither did their parents or their grandparents. Also, Obamacare is not bringing us close to government ownership of production for all goods and services. If you fail to see that the life you live is owed to a mixture of government and free market economies, that is what leads to people saying it is worth it to tank the economy.

When people truly believe they must stop the boogeyman which is about to usher in socialism, that is when the House Republicans look reasonable.

#20 Comment By Glaivester On September 30, 2013 @ 11:01 am

It occurs to me: the only people who ever use the term “tu quoque fallacy” are those who advocate a double standard and are caught doing so.

#21 Comment By balconesfault On September 30, 2013 @ 11:15 am

@Glaivester And lest you think they are not serious, they are trying to withhold HUD grants from Westchester New York unless they let the federal government determine their zoning laws, despite report after report that shows the laws are not racially discriminatory.

Note please, that Westchester County received taxpayer dollars based on a certification that they would “affirmatively further fair housing as a condition to its receipt of federal funds”.

So the question is not simply, as you and the conservative media are trying to allege – was Westchester’s zoning racially discriminatory?

Rather, the question is whether Westchester was using HUD dollars which were earmarked to promote fair housing policies without complying with that requirement. The judge found that Westchester was submitting fraudulent certifications to the Federal Government – which means they were stealing Federal taxpayer dollars.

You might disagree with the idea that HUD is making grants based on promoting fair housing – but the battle then should be over that program itself, and not whether to allow local governments to grab Federal dollars without complying with the terms of the grants, and moreover whether they should be able to provide false certifications to the Federal government in order to grab those dollars. Shame on Westchester County, and shame on those who favor Westchester County’s raid on the Federal coffers.

#22 Comment By Richard Gadsden On September 30, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

“I stand corrected.

“If they succeed then the House of Congress becomes a rough equivalent to the House of Commons in the UK, with the Senate and the President being expected to sign off on what the House wants or else the House shuts the government down.”

So there is at least one organization that works that way.”

Yes, because the equivalents to the Senate and the President in the British system are the House of Lords and the Queen. You may have noticed the basic defect of these two institutions: no-one elected them.

It’s worthy of note what happened the last time the House of Lords tried to interfere with the power of the purse: it had the power to do so taken away (Parliament Act 1911; a money bill becomes an act one month after passage through the Commons regardless of the actions of the Lords), and the last time a King tried it, he found that the result was a scaffold (1649).

Formally, the annual Finance Bill is subject to the royal veto; in practice no monarch has even considered vetoing a finance bill since Charles I.

If you regard the electoral college and the equality of state representation in the Senate as defects in the democracy of the Presidency and Senate comparable to appointed peerages and a hereditary monarchy, then bypassing them, as Britain does, is wholly justified. If you think that they are, if imperfectly, democratically elected, then overriding their powers is wholly unjustifiable.

#23 Comment By jamie On September 30, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

“It occurs to me: the only people who ever use the term ‘tu quoque fallacy’ are those who advocate a double standard and are caught doing so.”

It’s an interesting phenomenon, I do notice it a lot more among conservatives. I think they’re much more focused on personalities and personal legitimacy than Democrats — this makes sense, Democrats are much more technocratic in this epoch, and care more about empirical evidence and expertise. I do not mean to imply this is necessarily a better way to govern, far from it.

The upshot is that when Al Gore is photographed riding in a town car, it’s conclusive evidence that Global Warming doesn’t exist. See, I really don’t care about the personalities, in general I don’t think Democrats do, so the idea that I’d apply a “standard” to this or that politician, let alone a double one to another one, makes no sense. Democrats are hypocrites, Republicans are hypocrites, that’s all fine*, but Democrats pass bills I like, I could care less about what their gas mileage is or what exceptions they carve out for themselves. These sorts of betrayals are endemic to all forms of elite government, there’s simply no alternative. If someone’s doing something that I think’s the right thing, I’m not going to nail them to the wall for going against their “principles” in doing so.

Your counterargument, to me, sounds like an apology for the Republican position; one side has it’s position, the other has it’s position, but calling both sides “crazy” just throws up a smokescreen that legitimates any criticism and makes arguments about policy on the merits impossible.

* I really can’t tell you how maligned I think “hypocrisy” has become in the modern age. Hypocrisy is when the Nazi doesn’t murder, hypocrisy is when the shopkeeper doesn’t turn in the poor thief. Hypocrisy is mercy, it is weakness, it is conscience, I dare say it is the root of conservatism, it is the best evidence we have that men have not become machines, slaves to their idealism. I’d rather be trapped on a desert island with 10 hypocrites than 10 True Believers in different things.

#24 Comment By Mont D. Law On September 30, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

“If they succeed then the House of Congress becomes a rough equivalent to the House of Commons in the UK, with the Senate and the President being expected to sign off on what the House wants or else the House shuts the government down.”

No functioning parliamentary democracy is more then 30 days away from an election. If a budget bill fails the government doesn’t shut down it falls and 30 days we elect a new one. No harm, no foul.

#25 Comment By Bobby On October 1, 2013 @ 12:24 am

“The once grand Old Party has spent so much of the last couple decades convincing themselves that they are the default ‘Party of America’… -Jack

I think you’re right. Many in the GOP seem to think that they represent the “real America” and that those who disagree with them represent some kind of faux America. I think this is a particularly acute problem with evangelicals, whose single-minded obsession is “tak[ing] back America.” I’m sorry, but I never heard that it used to be theirs.