There is a predominantly American idiom, “My way or the highway” dating back to the 1970s that is an ultimatum indicating that the listener(s) will either bend and conform to the speakers edicts or else be excluded. Besides being an American idiom, my way or the highway best sums up the ideology behind every dictator who has ever existed. As Americans have witnessed over the past six years, it is also the philosophy driving the religious right and worse, the entirety of the conservative movement; especially the hard-line conservatives in Ted Cruz’s tea party offshoot the House Freedom Caucus.
For most of President Barack Obama’s time in office, Republicans in Congress have used various means of obstruction as their “my way or the highway” policy, but the problem has increased substantially since the emergence of ultra-conservative sycophants adhering to the Ted Cruz ideology of burning down government if “their way” is not implemented. Speaker John Boehner has had to deal with about 40 Cruz acolytes in the House and because they are intransigent on everything, Boehner seemingly could not get out soon enough and threw in the proverbial towel.
Now that the House Republican caucus is in complete disarray and no-one in their right mind wants the dangerous Speaker’s job, some people asked what could be so difficult about corralling a few dozen “outliers” into the Republican fold and convince them to actually govern. Fortunately, the recent revelation of a House Freedom Caucus ‘questionnaire for prospective candidates for the Speakers’ position clears up why Republicans are terrified of being Speaker, and why there is no good outcome as long as Cruz’s House Freedom Caucus is allowed to exist. For the record, there is an equally “extreme” group of Republicans in the Senate that embrace the House crazies’ ideology; they are closely-aligned and follow the Senate Conservatives Fund mandates.
There are roughly 40 tea party Republicans in the House with “an extraordinary amount of power” over the process to choose a new Speaker. To win the Speaker’s chair, a candidate will require support from 218 Republicans on the floor of the House, but with 247 Republicans in the caucus, without the Freedom Caucus support no candidate can get to 218 votes. The reason Republicans are wary of acquiescing to the Freedom Caucus’ demands in exchange for support to be Speaker was revealed in a document outlining the caucus’ demands before they will allow the American government to stay in operations.
The Freedom Caucus document, in the form of a “questionnaire,” insists that any prospect for the Speaker’s position pledges to;
“Attach significant structural entitlement reforms in the FY 2016 budget resolution, such as welfare reform, and significant process changes such as establishing an automatic continuing resolution that would raise the debt limit and never schedule another debt limit increase.”
The House Freedom Caucus also demands that the next speaker commits to numerous tea party conditions on any agreement to avoid a government shutdown that includes,
“not acquiescing to a continuing resolution in the event Senate Democrats try to block ‘our’ appropriations process, and ensure that any appropriations bills do not contain funding for Planned Parenthood, the Iran deal, ‘Obamacare,’ and Obama’s amnesty (immigration enforcement)” executive order.”
It is noteworthy that all of the Freedom Caucus’ demands to allow the government to stay in operation, and for America to honor its debt obligations, are major aspects of the Ted Cruz “vision” of America that he claims he was “anointed” to impose on Americans. It is also essentially the same Cruz strategy which prompted the Republican shutdown in 2013 that closed the government for 16 days. If the House Freedom Caucus has its way, holding the government hostage to impose the extremists’ agenda will be “enshrined as the official policy” of any Republican Speaker of the House and the Republican caucus will toe the line or face the extremists’ ire.
The intent of the ‘document‘ is to ensure that the next speaker either commits to the imposing the extremists’ agenda or “send the entire country into a tailspin.” As an example of their seriousness in having it “my way or the highway,” if the looming debt ceiling increase does not drastically slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the extremists will push America into a credit default and burn the American economy to the ground. In fact, a Treasury Department report found that if the extremists succeed in their four-year crusade to drive an American credit default, the “result will be a recession exceeding the severity of the 2008 financial crisis” that will disastrously affect the United States and entire world’s economy. No-one, not in America or the world, will be spared the conservatives’ wrath if their agenda is not fully realized.
The idea of eviscerating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is extremely unpopular, even among some Republicans, but those programs are sacrosanct to most Democrats. There is no universe in which President Obama or Senate Democrats will ever agree to the Freedom Caucus’ “structural entitlement reforms.” The Freedom Caucus’ intent is to make it impossible for the next speaker to raise the debt limit because they seriously want America to default on its debt, but that is just a warm-up for their other primary goal; shutting down the U.S. government.
Besides the House Freedom Caucus demand that the next speaker swear an oath to god to commit to oppose any bill that would keep the government running, they demand a new process to fund what little government they will allow to remain. For example, instead of passing a budget to fund the entire government, the Freedom Caucus insists that funding for each aspect, program, and Department of the federal government will only be approved by separate bills. The goal is giving Republicans the authority to fund only their favorite aspects of government like the military while eliminating those they believe are unnecessary and unconstitutional. That means that education, healthcare, social programs, and all other domestic programs will be wiped out or the government is closed.
One of the reasons the Palin-like moron, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, bailed out of the Speaker’s race is due to the demands of the House Freedom Caucus. McCarthy said the House Freedom Caucus document explains why he dropped out of the race. He said that on the one hand If he did not agree to the demands of the House Freedom Caucus, he would never secure enough votes to become speaker, but if he does agree to their demands he will never be capable of passing any legislation necessary to avoid the HFC’s disastrous consequences for the country. McCarthy admitted that even in the event he could manage to be elected as Speaker, there is no way he would ever be able to garner sufficient votes to avoid a credit default or keep the government open; both primary goals of the House Freedom Caucus. When he was queried whether he thought the Republican House was even governable, McCarthy said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom.”
At the rate Republican are going, it still does not appear the extremists have come close to hitting rock bottom. Now there are quiet whispers that some Republicans are seeking Democratic help in keeping one branch of government from imploding in on itself, and one understands that the government has to keep operating. However, one also understands that this monumental government debacle is down to all Republicans embracing the extremists, and their funders the Koch brothers, and at some juncture Democrats have to just sit back and let the American voting public see exactly why their government is impotent going into a general election season; if the House Freedom Caucus even allows the government to remain operational.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.