So where to begin? I put my column on hold this summer so that I could make my move to Anchorage (I am teaching for a year at the University of Alaska Anchorage, holding the Atwood Chair for journalism) and to work on a couple of other longer range projects. Labor Day is over and now it’s time to get back to work.
There remain lots of dull, policy stories that are not being written by anyone else. Meaty stuff. Before I took my break, for example, it was unclear whether Congress would appropriate federal money on time and if another government shut-down was on the way. Now that I am back: Who knows? Some in the Congress are willing to shut down the government to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The only thing clear is that the Republican party is deeply divided on Capitol Hill.
A proposed Continuing Resolution had to be pulled from the House Wednesday because there wasn’t enough votes for that measure to pass. There is a bloc of members in the House and the Senate that will take about any step required to thwart the Affordable Care Act (or Obama Care, if you prefer). That means closing the government, refusing to pay the bills that Congress has already charged on the national credit card, and at the same time, destroying their own party’s leadership. As Politico put it: “The GOP is clearly struggling with itself over how best to keep the government operating and placate conservatives who want to cut off all funding for implementing Obama’s signature reforms.”
The problem is that no side has a majority. There are three distinct caucuses: Democrats, traditional Republicans and the new radical Republicans. None of those three groups has an easy way to win enough votes to win a majority.
Take the House: There is a natural governing coalition that could band together, Democrats with a few Republicans to make enough votes to pass a budget and basically keep the government humming. But the problem is that if Speaker John Boehner taps this coalition too often, then he’s toast. He’ll lose his job. He needs to keep a majority of Republicans happy. Even if that means chaos. (more…)