One of the great mysteries of the current budget crisis is why Republicans did not declare victory and pass a continuing resolution last week funding government through the end of the year.
The resolution that is at the root of this crisis already establishes sequestration-level funding that President Obama and Senate Democrats have repeatedly said is unacceptably low but which they were willing to swallow in order to avoid a government shutdown.
That is the kind of compromise that, under normal circumstances, Republicans should celebrate. They got Democrats to accept a continuation of drastic, across-the-board spending cuts that are anathema to the president and his base. And yet members of the Tea Party, from Senator Ted Cruz to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, have driven the Republican Party so far though the looking glass that even a compromise that so greatly favored their side has not been enough.
The American public knows this, which is why the Tea Party does damage to the Republican Party the longer this crisis drags on.
Public opinion polls continue to show that voters overwhelmingly blame Republicans for the pain this shutdown is inflicting.
House Speaker John Boehner knows this but will do nothing to stop it. His agenda is not to win national or statewide elections or even to save the Republican Party from the kamikaze pilots who have taken it over. His sole priority is to save his speakership, which is why he will not bring a clean continuing resolution to the floor and allow an up-or-down vote.
Republican complaints that the president and Senate Democrats refuse to compromise ring hollow.
“Compromise,” to these demagogues, is to mandate that Democrats scrap President Obama’s signature domestic legislative accomplishment, which was passed by Congress, signed into law by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and ratified by voters who returned its architect to the White House last November.
Belatedly, Republicans have complained that Senate Democrats won’t compromise by refusing to go to a budget conference committee. This request was all the more insincere when it arrived immediately before the government was due to shut down this week.
Senate Democrats, of course, had been begging for a budget compromise for months – ever since the senate passed its budget last spring. But Republicans rejected this attempt at compromise 18 times, refusing to allow the Senate and House of Representatives to go to a budget conference to hammer out a deal that would have put an end to this cycle of continuing resolutions.
The reality, of course, is that Republicans do not want a compromise. Their behavior this week is a final grasp at strangling a health care bill they were unable to defeat legislatively, judicially or electorally.
Republicans could have been scoring political points by pointing out all the glitches with the health care exchanges that went live on the same day they decided to shut down the government.
Instead, the public’s focus has been on their intransigence and the myopia with which a small, nationally reviled faction has managed to hold the will of the American people hostage.
This could have been the week when Republicans celebrated a continuation of austerity, across the board spending cuts and all the fiscal policies they had been rhetorically touting for decades.
Democrats compromised by giving away the store on sequestration-level funding. Too bad that the Tea Partiers driving the train in Washington these days are too wild-eyed to see it.