It is 9:15 a.m. central (10:15 Washington time) as I sit down at my keyboard. About an hour and half ago my wife and I went eat. The Senate had already passed a clean bill funding the Department of Home Land Security for the rest of the fiscal year. (“Clean” meaning that the bill was stripped of provision which blocked President Obama’s immigrations orders.) John Boehner had refused to bring that clean bill to the House floor for a vote because he knew the very conservative Tea Party members of the Republican House delegation would not stand for it. There was even talk that there might be an attempt to strip Boehner of his job as Speaker of the House had he attempted it.
Faced with a shutdown of the Department of Home Land Security which would have devastated his party once again, Boehner cobbled together a bill which would have funded the department for three weeks without any strings attached. The bill would have effectively “kicked the can down the road” allowing the House Republicans more time to get their act together. Most experts agreed that the temporary measure would pass. However, when Boehner brought the bill up for a vote, surprisingly too many of the most conservative members of the House Republican caucus bolted and voted against the bill and it failed 203-224. That had to be a very embarrassing moment for the Speaker because it showed that he had again lost control of his delegation.
More importantly Boehner was about to take the blame for the Republican shutdown of the department charged with keeping Americans safe right at the time when home grown self radicalized terrorists seem to be popping up everywhere like weeds. And this was only 16 months after a government shutdown which most Americans correctly blamed on the House Republicans.
When my wife and I left to go to dinner Boehner was reported to be frantically trying to drum up support for a new bill which temporarily funded Home Land Security for only a week. Looking for the latest status of the situation when we returned home from dinner, I found a CNN article which opened with these words.
Washington (CNN): The House approved a one-week extension of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, sending the proposal to the White House and avoiding a partial DHS shutdown with just hours before the Friday night deadline.
This time, with the help of House Democrats, Boehner had narrowly avoided disaster not only for the country, but for his Party. Even so, this entire episode was another black eye for the House Republicans and it delays for only a week another showdown where the House Republicans will be again be front and center on every cable news channel displaying their utter dysfunction. There is absolutely no guarantee that the next situation will end any better.
Having lived in Alabama for a long time and having wed a lovely Alabama girl, I have picked up a number of Alabama expressions. The one come to mind right now is, “Poor House Republicans; bless their little hearts.” (You have to imagine that said with a real Alabama twang.) Now, you have to understand when an Alabamian starts blessing someone’s “hart”, it is not as kind as expression as it might seem. It usually means something like, “God help those poor fools because they are totally clueless”. I think that is exactly the right sentiment to express about this situation.
If this fiasco wouldn’t have such a potential to harm this great country of ours, I would rejoice because this situation puts the Tea Party Republicans in the House in the worst light possible. While they claim to be the last real patriots, it illustrates perfectly how they are more than willing to put their ideology above the best interest of their country. And they can feel perfectly safe in doing so. That’s because they come from House districts so gerrymandered that the majority their constituents are cut from the same political cloth. In fact if they didn’t act like the obstructionist that they are, they might be replaced the next time they run for reelection.
What is sad is that a relatively small segment of the House Republication delegation can dictate to their Republican leader because they know he cannot pass legislation without them. Since Boehner seems unwilling to unite the House Democrats with his more moderate Republican House members to pass sensible legislation, the Tea Partiers understand that they affectionately control the House’s Republican agenda. Senate Republicans, while in the majority now, have proven more reasonable and willing to work with the Senate Democrats to perform the country’s business. However, to really get things done, they must rely on Speaker Boehner to keep his Tea Partiers in line and that has proven more difficult than herding cats. Consequently, a small minority of House members can wreak havoc whenever legislation does not rise to their ideological expectations, but they do so at the expense of their Party.
When the Republicans took control of the Senate in the last elections, it was a mixed blessing. They now control the entire legislative arm of the US government, but with that control comes responsibilities. They are no longer the minority party with control of only the House, free to act up like children when they don’t get their way. Republicans must now act like grown ups and show that they can govern or the American people will be less inclined to give them that kind responsibility again anytime soon. So far they have been failures at governing because the children in their Party are still in control.