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Matthew S. Worner, Published September 28 2013

Letter: Tea party bullies US House

In its Sept. 19 editorial, The Forum rightly criticized the U.S. House of Representatives, specifically the tea party wing, for its insistence that FY 2014 appropriations or an increase in the debt ceiling be tied to defunding and/or delaying the Affordable Care Act. The Forum editorial staff also pointed out that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (a group that is generally on the opposite side of most issues – not only with the president but most Democrats) was against such actions by House Republicans.

The Forum was correct:

“The debt ceiling is not about additional federal spending. It’s a mechanism to pay the bills for appropriations already approved by a Congress of which the Republican-controlled House is part. It is the height of irresponsibility to put the good faith and credit of the nation at risk every few months because of lock-step adherence to a flawed ideology that has no purchase outside of a small cabal in the U.S. House.”

Weak speaker

The tea party wing of the House took Speaker John Boehner (or follower might be a better term at this point) down an unproductive path of failure. The House voted on a continuing resolution that would fund government operations beyond Sept. 30 but would strip funding for the Affordable Care Act. The measure passed 230-189, with only two Democrats and one Republican crossing party lines (North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer was one who voted for the continuing resolution, which would defund the Affordable Care Act).

So Boehner caved to the demands of the tea party wing – and this is no surprise to anyone who follows politics. The speaker has been caving for several years now to this group of Republicans.

Seriously, does the speaker really think that the Senate is going to vote to eliminate funding for the president’s signature policy initiative? Please. Former Speaker Tip O’Neil would never have gone to President Ronald Reagan with legislation to eliminate his tax cut legislation – and the end game is the same here with the Affordable Care Act.

End game

As someone who has more than a passing interest in public administration, public policy and politics, allow me to depict the end game (or the playbook, for you football fans):

Now that the House has voted on a continuing resolution, including appropriations legislation, that would defund the ACA, that legislation is sent to the U.S. Senate.

Senators such as Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will get their day in the sun – and speak on the Senate floor about how the nation does not want the ACA, and that every senator should vote for the House legislation that defunds the president’s signature policy initiative. Cruz has admitted that this is grandstanding and will most likely fail. And …

There is a division in the Republican Party Senate caucus – Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and I would likely say moderate John Hoeven, R-N.D. – and a few other Republicans will not vote to de-fund the ACA. And …

Dead on arrival

The House appropriations bill is dead on arrival with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He will remove the provision that defunds the act (all he needs is a simple majority, not 60 votes to remove the provision) and send it back to the House. And then …

The House will receive the Senate appropriations bill, and a coalition of Democrats and non-tea party Republicans will either approve the Senate legislation or something very close to it. And …

Record low approval

In a couple of weeks, House Republicans (and leadership) will have record low approval rates (we could see some single-digit approval rates for the House this time around) and one would think that the leadership would pass debt limit ceiling legislation very quickly (the president has said that this legislation is non-negotiable – and rightfully so – the government has to pay its bills). Will logic hit home with the House Republicans? Too early to tell, but the outcome is in doubt.

For the past couple of years, the tea party has been the tail wagging the dog of the Republican Party. Will House Republican leaders learn before November 2014? That’s the question that all moderate and independent voters are asking.


The writer is an alumnus of Mayville (N.D.) State University, Virginia Tech, and Georgetown, and is a resident of Alexandria, Va.