The plots Republicans laid against President Obama in 2008 have created a lot of turmoil, civil unrest, and obstruction—but they didn’t bring down the President. Instead, some four years later, those plots are turning on the Party, according to numerous inside sources who spoke to Politico.
The GOP leadership is dealing with an unprecedented level of frustration in running the House, according to conversations with more than a dozen aides and lawmakers in and around leadership. Leadership is talking past each other. The conference is split by warring factions. And influential outside groups are fighting them.
Yes, you knew the Republican House was a divided, chaotic mess of dysfunction. But it’s impossible to overstate just how dysfunctional it is. We’ve seen it in action, from outside conservative groups threatening Republican lawmakers over the budget to Boehner having to pull his own bills.
Freedom Works gloated recently after a humiliated Speaker Boehner and Eric Cantor had to pull a Republican “healthcare” (defund ObamaCare) bill for lack of support. It’s civil war, on top of fractured leadership with a side of gleeful outside groups prodding on the dysfunction for their own purposes. But it’s worse than that. We saw much of that last session.
This session is even worse, as their foiled plots did nothing but drive them further into camps of now divided extremism. The gerrymandered districts they carved out with their 2010 win are only furthering the extremism, as the feverish electorate within their congressional districts drives them deeper into their chosen camp of Republican extremism.
Things are so bad within the party that the House is in a perpetual state of “stalemate” according to Politico. Even House leadership are having “trouble staying on the same page”.
This results in them being unable to pass anything of any import, and instead trying to fill up their time with “frivolous” (according to Nancy Pelosi) activities like taking two days to pass legislation to extend the government’s helium reserves.
The inability to find unifying principles is sometimes in plain view: House Republicans spent two days last week passing legislation that extended the authority of the government’s helium reserves, which Democrats would’ve allowed them to pass by unanimous voice vote.
For this reason, voters should not expect much in the way of legislation, unless it’s something Boehner can get passed with the help of Democrats. It might be fair to start referring to Boehner as the Democratic Minority Leader if this keeps up. Without Pelosi assisting him from the wings, Boehner would be doomed right now.
Voters should not expect the House to be able to negotiate a budget with the Senate, even though Republicans, Democrats and independents alike feel that the sequester cuts will hurt the economy. The Republicans in the House are too divided for that. They are too divided for immigration reform, “The House’s immigration group, which has been working for four years, hasn’t released a stitch of paper, let alone an actual bill.” They are too divided for background check legislation, too divided for much of anything. Boehner suggested that he might allow a VOTE on gun safety and immigration, and the Right flipped out. So much for that.
Republicans are divided against each other, against outside conservative groups, and against their leadership. They are a hot mess.
The House will be in session for only 126 days in 2013. This schedule is a continuation of the two weeks off one week on the schedule that the Republicans implemented when they gained the majority after the 2010 election. And on the off chance that they are at work, they’re working on things like helium reserves that could have been passed with unanimous consent. But when you can’t get the votes for anything else, drawing out the one thing you know you can get passed is your only option. This is a body that has not one piece of paper after four years of working on immigration reform.
The voters are paying House Republicans to shuffle cards and point fingers, while they obstruct and delay major legislation whose time has come. And of course, Republicans are already planning their next debt ceiling hostage taking, so they are also being paid to willy nilly defund the government as they run around like chickens with their heads cut off screaming about things like the deficit that could be fixed if only they would sit down for budget resolution talks.
Too many of the House Republicans are utterly clueless as to the national damage they’re doing to the brand. They come from safe districts, where their specific strain of tea is all the rage, from social issues to faux deficit hawk pretense. Leadership can’t get a grip on the members, and so far, even the national party can’t rein them in.
In 2013, the House Republicans will once again take the nation on a sickening journey, lurching from manufactured crisis to empty, jingoistic solutions, only this session they’re so dysfunctional that they can’t do much more than pontificate about helium ad nauseam. How fitting.
The person who deserves the most sympathy here is House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, whose job requires him to round up votes from this collection of vagabond clowns, turning on themselves with the feral hunger of the truly lost.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.