Politics

09.18.13

Boehner Caves to the Cruz Cabal’s Demands

House Speaker John Boehner confirmed Wednesday that he’s going along with the conservative activists’ demands to tie funding to the government to defunding Obamacare. Considering how unpopular that is with voters, it’s a breathtaking indication of how little Republicans have learned.

Bowing to pressure from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his cadre of absolutist lawmakers and conservative activists, House Republican leaders have announced their plan to move forward with a three-month continuing resolution that funds the government and defunds the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re going to send it over to the Senate,” said Boehner, speaking to his colleagues, “so our conservative allies over there can continue the fight. That’s where the fight is.”

Of course, Boehner knows as well as anyone that this resolution is doomed to failure. Democrats won’t vote for it, and unlike with the previous proposal—a continuing resolution tied to a separate vote on Obamacare that the Senate could accept or reject—he doesn’t have an out. When the bill inevitably fails, he’ll have to do this again. And barring a return to sanity from conservative Republicans—in which they acknowledge the need for compromise—Boehner will have to work with Democrats in the House to avert a government shutdown.

What’s fascinating about all of this is what it says about GOP priorities. Yes, the public isn’t thrilled with the Affordable Care Act, but few Americans support the push to repeal—just one in four, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. If it does anything, the drive to defund Obamacare furthers the view that Republicans are unconcerned with everything but their narrow ideological crusades.

Just look at what the GOP refuses to act on. Comprehensive immigration reform is one of the most popular items on the national agenda, with broad support from Republicans, Democrats, and independents. What’s more, it was only a few months ago that a filibuster-proof majority of the Senate passed a bill that establishes a path to citizenship and mandates tough measures for border security. And yet, because of House inaction—coupled with the relentless opposition of conservative activists—immigration reform is all but dead, with terrible consequences for the GOP’s relationship with Latino voters, who now have every reason to vote for Democrats and actively oppose the Republican Party.

It’s a striking dynamic. Thanks to its fanatical base, the GOP is unable to move forward and improve its image. Instead, it’s stuck in an endless loop of stunts and confrontations, each one sapping its strength and appeal, and setting it up for another poor showing with voters who are tired of the nonsense.