GOP “Infighting” Over Fiscal Negotiations

Yet another installment from the Republican’s civil war.

The disagreements among Republicans surfaced as negotiations on a deficit reduction plan designed to supplant and avert the automatic cuts and tax hikes got more serious, with both parties having presented opening offers.

Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolinian with a following among small-government conservatives, lashed out at an offer sent on Monday to Obama by Boehner, a fellow Republican.

“Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more,” DeMint said in a statement.

In the House of Representatives, two first-term Republican Tea Party stalwarts – Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan – were removed by party leadership from the powerful budget committee in what Huelskamp called “a vindictive move.”

The Republican leadership offered no immediate explanation for the unusual action, but Boehner has had problems bringing in line the large Tea Party wing in the House. Elected to Congress in force in 2010, they regard the speaker as too much of a compromiser and tied his hands during talks in 2011 on raising the debt ceiling.

“The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions,” said Huelskamp.

They’ve all seen the polling that says if the Austerity Bomb negotiations fail, most people will blame Republicans – it’s just that some are too principled in their wingnuttery or too dumb to care. I’m having difficulty seeing a downside to this for those who will be hurt most by the Austerity Bomb in whatever form it eventually happens. Either Boehner will beat his rebels and thus the GOP will make a few more concessions than they would otherwise – or the ideologically zealous will win the day and the GOP will get even more blame as we head into a future in which they become less the second big party and more an irrelevant and anachronistic appendage to politics – a political appendix made up of grumpy old white men. Pass the popcorn.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • I’m starting to think that there is no serious conflict within the GOP. It’s theater. They are unified in wanting to go “over the cliff”. That’s their goal.

    A statement like DeMint’s, while ostensibly a criticism of Boehner, is really back-stopping him. It is intended to create the illusion that his proposal is being made over serious objections within the GOP but it isn’t, there’s nothing of substance to it that they don’t already like. It’s just good cop / bad cop.

    The proposal is such that Obama can’t accept it (doesn’t mean “won’t” but I’d guess he won’t). If he accepts it in substance, his support will crumble.

    If he refuses the offer….

    It appears to be very unlikely (to me) that the Obama administration has the political capital to win a critical mass of GOP defectors from the house. The electioneering money flows preclude that because behind every defector stands potential GOP candidates to replace them in the next cycle. Defectors would, in effect, be resigning from their political careers with their vote.

    So the GOP is affording no out here: it’s over-the-cliff we go.

    The polling that suggests “most people” would blame the GOP doesn’t impress because I don’t see that as a serious disincentive to the GOP. Many people will, for some number of news cycles, be mad at the GOP — sure. And so what? (a) There are two years until the next national election. (b) The GOP is learning that they don’t need widespread support to govern — they only need a critical mass of intense support (enough to hold the house, as far as fiscal issues are concerned). Meanwhile, once a few months have passed, being “over the cliff” will be widely accepted as the new normal — the starting point for any future discussions.

    The main goals of the GOP seem to be (a) to radically reduce the total-cost-of-ownership of labor to be closer to (so-called) “developing nation” standards; (b) to foreclose the possibility of progressive gov’t programs creating a real safety net or competing with the private sector for employment. Increasing levels of poverty and near poverty serve their aims. Stimulus spending for, say, infrastructure work would counter their aims by adding a large, decent employer to the market (pushing labor costs up).

    The GOP and its big-money supporters have a lot of foundation for this kind of project because of their strength in key positions of local and state governments, critical public institutions, and some large employers. Thus, they’re in a good position to selectively direct “pork” spending to buy loyalty (e.g., directing public money to private firms as “education reform”). They’re in a good position to start to spin a narrative that, for example, Walmart workers are actually the really lucky happy workers in the next crank of the recession machine.

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