Friday, April 15, 2011

Can the GOP Control the Tea Party

The dysfunctional body that poses as the Congress of the United States passed a continuing resolution that at long last funds the government through the remainder of the fiscal year.  The legislation, which should have passed a year ago and has threatened to shut down the government for months, provides a whopping $352 million in spending cuts.  Not only does this bold example of political minutia fail to dent the growing deficit it does not even begin to address the primary cause of the country’s financial woes…entitlements and defense spending.
This was sausage making at its best.  The only positive attribute of this resolution is that both parties are dissatisfied with the outcome.  If both parties hate it then maybe some good lies deep within.
But more important than the passage of the resolution may very well be the manner in which it was passed.  Speaker Boehner was unable to unite his caucus in support of a measure that he personally negotiated.  Fifty nine Tea Party members broke ranks and voted against the bill.  Boehner had to rely on Democratic support to get the measure past.  What should have been hailed as a victory for the Speaker seems more like a defeat.
The debate now moves to the debt ceiling and the Ryan budget proposal where trillions instead of billions are at stake. The question now is how the Tea Party members will respond.  There are already signs that they will take whatever measures are necessary to get their way.  For example, the debt ceiling must be raised this July.  This deadline cannot be extended.  Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint has flatly stated that he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless substantive budgetary cuts are enacted.  He has said he will filibuster the measure if necessary.  Unlike in the House, Senate rules allow one member to bring debate on a measure to a halt.  If Senator DeMint stands his ground the debt ceiling will not be raised.  For the first time in our history the government will default on its obligations.
Make no mistake the Tea Party members of Congress are a force to be reckoned with.  Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have been able to blunt their assault thus far.  But with the clock ticking that will be much more difficult in the coming weeks.        

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