Now that Syria is sort of off the table for the moment, Republicans in Congress can go back to doing what they’re best at: infighting and plotting to scuttle their own leadership.
House Republicans are eying a vote as early as Thursday on a gambit designed to re-declare their support for defunding Obamacare while avoiding a government shutdown.
The vote will be a major test of the extent to which the GOP is captive to ultraconservatives. It pits party leaders, who wants to avoid a shutdown, against furious conservative activist groups who see the plan as a surrender and betrayal. The big question is whether conservative backbenchers in the House see leadership’s move as providing sufficient political cover for them, or whether the angry reaction from the organized activist community scares them off.
If the proposal passes the House, the Senate will be instructed to vote on the defunding measure; if it defeats it, then the “clean” resolution to keep the government funded at agreed-to levels goes straight to the President’s desk. No shutdown.
Conservative groups like FreedomWorks, Club For Growth and Heritage Action vehemently oppose the plan and have vowed to punish lawmakers who vote to bring it up. They want Republicans to force a confrontation over defunding Obamacare at risk of a government shutdown. These well-financed groups wield tremendous influence over the GOP and have repeatedly bested — and embarrassed — the party leadership.
“This is a legislative gimmick designed to provide political cover to those who are unwilling to fight to defund Obamacare,” said Michael Needham, the leader of Heritage Action. “Any constituent who looks at this vote will know it is intended to look like a vote to defund Obamacare while failing to do so. The American people are tired of gimmicks, and it is our expectation that no conservative in Congress will try to deceive their constituents by going along with this cynical ploy.”
This is the Congress the president wanted to approve the resolution to attack Syria? It sounds more like the Republicans are ready to launch missiles at themselves. Now there’s a thought.