The Party That Couldn’t Kabuki Straight

If you have been following the intra-GOP brouhaha in the U.S. House semi-carefully, you probably realize that much of the conflict between Freedom Caucus bravos and the other Republicans has been over how much hysteria to expend on efforts to force presidential vetoes of prized legislation instead of letting their bills succumb to Senate filibusters. Perhaps some of these birds actually do believe Obama would allow them to kill funding for Planned Parenthood or revoke his executive actions on immigration or mess up Obamacare in the face of a government shutdown or a debt limit default. But for the most part they seem to think there’s vast electoral or psychological or moral gold to be mined from showing exactly what they would do if one of their hirelings was in the White House.

Presumably that’s why the Kabuki Theater exercise of sending Obama a budget reconciliation bill–which cannot be filibustered–that “defunds” Planned Parenthood and repeals key parts of Obamacare has run afoul of right-wing opposition, per a report from Politico‘s Seung Min Kim:

[T]hree conservative members of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s conference — Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah — have already vowed to vote against the current reconciliation package that repeals major parts of Obamacare, arguing it doesn’t go far enough. If those votes don’t budge, McConnell can’t afford to lose any more votes from his 54-member ranks.

Meanwhile, a provision in the reconciliation bill that defunds Planned Parenthood for one year could cause some heartburn for moderates who don’t support stripping money from the women’s health group.

A draft bill did pass the House on Friday, but over the opposition of Heritage Action, which will make another effort to blow it up in the Senate unless the Obamacare repeal language is broader. But that could make the bill vulnerable to a parliamentarian’s ruling that it violates the Byrd Rule limiting reconciliation bills to provisions germane to the federal budget.

You will note that Marco Rubio, the smart-money favorite to become the Republican Establishment’s darling and win the GOP presidential nomination, is right there with Ted Cruz on obstructing any bill that leaves any significant element of Obamacare standing–on paper, of course. This is presumably a gesture by Rubio to reassure ideologues he would make the executive branch an instrument of their will should they allow his name to grace the top of the ballot next year.

This is the congressional party Paul Ryan will apparently try to lead as Speaker–one prone to fights to the death over strategy, tactics and above all symbolism.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.