Friday, December 13, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back

On Thursday the US House of Representatives passed a budget!  The bi-partisan agreement passed by a 332-94 vote.  Given the toxic atmosphere that pervades Washington; any compromise is cause for celebration.  
Speaker Boehner used the opportunity to take a “victory lap.”  For the second day in a row the Speaker criticized outside conservative groups for “misleading their followers” and “pushing members to places they didn’t want to go.”  “When groups come out and criticize an agreement they have never seen you begin to wonder just how credible their actions are.”  “They have lost all credibility.”  “They are using our members and they are using the American people for their own goals…This is ridiculous.”
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who led the budget conference committee, took to the House floor to defend the bill and chastise the far right opposition.  “We tried defeating this president.  I wish we would have.  Elections have consequences.  And I fundamentally believe that to do what really needs to be done we are going to have to win some elections.’  In the mean time, let’s try and make this divided government work.”
Conservative Wall Street columnist, Peggy Noonan echoed the sentiment:  “Tea Party lawmakers and their supporters should recognize an opportunity when it appears.  They suffer from a reputation of selfishness.  They only have to look to their base.  They only have to take care of themselves, and do. The Republican Party must operate nationally and make an impression on a big and various nation of 315 million.  There are moments when the Tea Party has to tug Republicans to the right.  This is a moment when cooperating-backing a deal that is better than the absence of a deal-would be statesman like. The thing about statesmen is that they are taken seriously.  And it isn’t only democrats who would benefit from looking serious.”
Make no mistake; this is a very small deal.  It does virtually nothing to address the major financial woes that we are facing.  But the significance of the deal isn’t in the details.  The significance here is that a compromise was achieved and moderate Republicans and their supporters are using this compromise to fight back against the right radicals that have controlled the Party and the government for the past three years.
Boehner isn’t just speaking out against the Tea Party members that have held his party hostage for the past two election cycles.  When Boehner attacks “outside groups” he is criticizing organizations that control the purse strings to the conservative movement.  Groups like Heritage Action, American Freedom Works and Club for Growth pour tens of millions of dollars into the Party coffers…backing Republican candidates…and funding primary challenges against incumbents not deemed “conservative enough.” 
Boehner, Ryan and Noonan are attacking the hand that feeds them.  We’ve not seen that before.  THAT is very significant.
Will this budget deal mark the end of an era of government gridlock and polarization?  Will it break the Tea Party hold on the Republican caucus? 
We hope so!
For this country runs best when we have two strong political parties that are willing to stand by their principles while finding common ground for the good of the country.               

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