A split between GOP leaders and conservative back-benchers erupted in a closed-door party meeting on the budget and is expected to spill over onto the House floor when the legislation is debated next week. Fiscal conservatives want to fulfill a central GOP campaign promise from the election to cut current spending to 2008 levels. They believe that requires $42 billion more in cuts than the bill provides.
Divisions within the GOP over how much and how quickly to cut spending are roiling the party at a time when House Republican leaders are struggling to keep their agenda on track. A bill to extend provisions of the Patriot Act failed Tuesday after 26 Republicans defected, under a streamlined procedure requiring a two-thirds House majority for passage. After conservatives protested, GOP leaders were also forced to withdraw a bill Tuesday providing assistance to workers who have lost earnings due to imports. On Wednesday, a bill to reclaim some U.S. payments to the United Nations failed after a defection by Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, who said some of the money was needed for security.
Basically we're seeing two factions in the GOP these days, the ORCs and the YATs.
The first are the Opportunist Republican Cynics (ORCs), and they are still the dominant faction. They are led by John Boehner, and they are basically the same people who drove America's economy into the ground under George W. Bush. They've regained power thanks to tea partiers, Fox News, and a willingness to parrot the doomsdayer teahadist rhetoric about spending and debt, but they also understand that actually following through on what they promised would be a political disaster of epic proportion. The problem for ORCs is that they don't have anything else to offer because they last time they were allowed to drive policy decisions for the GOP, they ended up thoroughly discrediting the party.
The other faction are the Yelling Angry Teahadists (YATs). They don't control the GOP leadership, but there's enough of them that the GOP needs them to maintain its majority. The YATs believe everything they said during the campaign about how Obama is the second coming of Karl Marx and how spending is destroying America. They really believe the only way to save America is to eliminate the deficit and they believe the deficit can be balanced by immediately cutting spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. And they believe the rest of America agrees with them. YATs are the only Republicans with any real enthusiasm, but that's mostly because their ideas haven't yet been discredited by the test of reality.
And what we've got now is the ORCs trying to convince the YATs that you can do things like pro-rate spending cuts, and that shaving 2% off the budget deficit is a really big deal. But everybody knows the ORCs are so incompetent that they couldn't sharpen a pencil if their lives depended on it, and the YATs just aren't buying it. They're demanding more, and the ORCs are furiously trying to figure out a way to satisfy the YATs while coming up with a budget that won't result in a government shutdown. But I suspect what the ORCs are ultimately going to find out is that the YATs will never bail them out. They're going to need to deal with Democrats and dump the YATs if they ever want to get anything done besides destroying their party.