Desperately Seeking Republican Unity

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Desperately Seeking Republican Unity

Radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt and Representative Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) really got into it earlier this week on Hugh’s program. Charlie Dent is shopping a deal where they fund the government for six months, repeal the medical-device tax, and make up for the lost revenues of the medical-device tax through a “a pension-smoothing provision” in Dent’s words.

Hugh’s objection isn’t that Dent is offering an alternative plan; it’s that he went on CNN and criticized most of the rest of the House Republicans. Pardon the long excerpt, but I think it’s required to accurately depict the context and tone:

CD: No, I have said, well, I have not really blasted leadership. What I said is that I believe the votes are there to pass a clean continuing resolution.

HH: But that, to me, undercuts the Republicans in such a profound way, because then my friends in the media, and Jake Tapper was on last hour, and I have them all on this show, they all point to Charlie Dent and Peter, and they say there are enough votes to pass the clean CR, and that therefore, the Republicans are obstructionists. And by the way, you’re a center-right guy. I read your whole bio.

CD: Yeah.

HH: Center-right guy from a center-right district in a center-right state. You know, it’s a great line. But aren’t you destroying the Republican bargaining position by empowering the media to parrot the President’s line?

CD: Well you know, I mean, I think, Hugh, there’s a certain unfairness here. When there are some members, I’ve said repeatedly, there are 180-200 members of the House Republican conference who have an affirmative sense of governance, who really want to get things done, who are going to play up the hard votes to enact the must-pass pieces of legislation. They’re going to be there. We have a few dozen folks who don’t share that same affirmative sense of governance. And the reality of the situation in the House is we don’t have 218 votes to pass the debt limit, or frankly the continuing resolution, on our own. We simply don’t, and we have to accept that reality. And there’s going to be, require some kind of a bipartisan vote to get this done out of the House. That’s all I’m saying.

HH: But now, I actually, I think, and this is said with respect.

CD: Yeah.

HH: I’m not yelling at you.

CD: Yeah.

HH: I think that you and Congressman King, who’s been a guest on this show, are in fact wrecking the opportunity to reach a constructive conclusion by undercutting the Speaker and empowering the media to beat him up. And I think that the place to have those conversations is in the conference, not on CNN.

Drew M., over at Ace of Spades, makes these points about the Tea Party, the Establishment, and a conflict that can no longer be ignored:

I have no problem with acknowledging the failures and shortcomings of this new brand of political player but let’s not pretend the entrenched professionals have been racking up win upon win for years. The track record of the insurgents may be spotty but wins like the House in 2010, replacing Bob Bennett with Mike Lee in Utah, Ron Johnson win in Wisconsin, Rand Paul over Mitch McConnell’s choice in Kentucky, Cruz over Dewhurst in Texas, and yes even Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist in Florida.

While I like the idea of holding Republicans to feet to the fire, let’s be smart about it.

Former Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois decided that Senator Mark Kirk, also of Illinois, needs to be primaried b/c he called for a clean CR. Now Walsh is a former Congressman because he’s, well, an idiot.

Here’s where a little discernment would go a long way for conservatives. Kirk is a moderate Republican. He’s also holding a Senate seat in ILLINOIS. That’s practically theft. Let’s not make him the problem, ok?

People like Lindsey Graham, a moderate in a deep red state are a problem. A big spender like Thad Cochran from Mississippi (a conservative but poor state that loves federal money) is a problem.

If Kirk needs to talk liberal on some issues, fine. Did I mention ILLINOIS?

What we can’t have is guys like Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both from Tennessee starting or joining Senate “gangs” that always move things left and cut the legs out from conservatives.

We need our “mavericks” to emulate what “moderate” and red state Democrats do . . . talk a big game back home but when push comes to shove, shut up and vote the right way.

And NEVER join a “gang”. To me, that’s open warfare and a primary is a reasonable reaction no matter the state.

That’s the long-term issue. The short-term issue is what, if anything, the Republican party can get out from this current stalemate.

Fill in the blanks:

I would vote for a bill to raise the debt ceiling another trillion or so (enough for one, perhaps two years under current spending rates) in exchange for __________.

I would vote for a Continuing Resolution that would reopen the government at pre-shutdown, Sequester-era spending levels in exchange for _______.

Earlier this week, I said that Republicans need to know what their own “red lines” are.

I suppose the answer to either might be, “a repeal of Obamacare!” But the Senate Democrats will never vote for that, and President Obama will never sign that. Ted Cruz’s quasi-filibuster was fine for putting Senate Democrats on the spot, but ultimately, every Democrat decided their fates are tied to Obamacare’s. Nobody on their side is giving up on it now.

The next answer might be, “a year’s delay of the individual mandate!” But President Obama and the leaders of the Democrats aren’t that dumb. If you delay the mandate a year, the young, healthy people won’t buy insurance. (Even with it, they still might not buy the insurance. The penalty fee is $95 or 1 percent of a person’s income, vs. on average at least $100 per month (and that’s presuming you qualify for subsidies). For a young person making $30,000, that’s a $300 penalty fee vs. $1200 for the insurance, and we’re not even getting into the issues of high deductibles and co-pays.) If the only people who sign up are old people with high health-care costs, and the young people with low health-care costs don’t sign up and start paying premiums, the insurance companies will enter the “death spiral” –too much money going out, not enough money coming in.

It was here that Republicans needed a Plan C. What was another concession that they saw as worth raising the debt ceiling or keeping the government open? A few possibilities:

  1. A repeal of the medical-device manufacturer tax.
  2. Require all members of Congress and their staff to purchase insurance through the exchanges.
  3. Something else.

The rest of us, outside the House Republican Conference, don’t need to know what the “red line” is. (Oh, who are we kidding, Bob Costa and Jonathan Strong will probably know it first.) But the House Republicans need to know what their minimum threshold for a deal is, and they need to unite on it. John Boehner may or may not have one. It’s probably different from what Senator Ted Cruz would want, and different from what Charlie Dent and Peter King would want, and different from what Michele Bachmann and Scott Garrett would want.

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