Saturday, October 19, 2013

EDITORIAL >> The crisis next time

Say this much for our congressional delegation: Although a couple of them supported the government shutdown and hinted at letting the federal government default on its debt, when Wednesday’s deadline approached, the entire delegation voted yes on ending the crisis — at least until early next year, when the parties will go at it again.

Until they switched sides Wednesday night, Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of the Second District and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of the Fourth District, who are most closely identified with the Tea Party, seemed willing to continue the showdown indefinitely. But major donors warned them about the dangers of a default. That’s when Griffin and Cotton went along with the Democrats and 80 other Republicans, handing a victory to the Obama administration.

The state’s two other moderate Republican representatives, Rep. Rick Crawford of the First District and Rep. Steve Womack of the Third District, also voted to end the crisis, as did moderate Republican Sen. John Boozman.

Sen. Mark Pryor, the state’s lone Democrat in Washington who is facing a tough re-election battle with Cotton, may have improved his chances as he helped negotiate an end to the shutdown.

Republicans, conceding defeat in their fight to defund Obamacare, have suffered in the polls for shutting down the federal government for 16 days, which cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, shook confidence worldwide in America’s credit worthiness and even interrupted operations at Little Rock Air Force Base.

House Republicans, spurred on by the Tea Party’s all-or-nothing devotion to obstructing the Affordable Care Act, have been largely blamed by the public for playing politics with the nation’s economy.

Griffin ignored the advice of Karl Rove, his former boss, not to use a government shutdown to defund Obamacare. Instead, Griffin followed the lead of Sen. Rafael (Ted) Cruz of Texas, who seems to think our national debt is caused by the Affordable Care Act.

Yet when it was time for the Senate to vote on the national debt and ending the shutdown, Cruz decided not to filibuster again as he did last month. His friends in the Senate (there are a few of them), including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, deserted him. No wonder Tea Partiers are blaming Senate Republicans for their humiliating defeat this week.

The GOP civil war continues between the radical factions and cooler heads like Rove, known as Bush’s Brain for planning the policy platforms that helped to elect President George W. Bush by appealing to swing voters. Rove’s moderate long-term strategy has been to fight Obamacare another day and absolutely never default on the national debt.

With the Tea Party driving their agenda, Republicans should expect to have a hard time winning back the White House and the Senate. But the GOP’s more pragmatic wing is now reasserting its authority. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said there would be no more shutdowns as long as he is in the Senate. That is, if he wins his primary fight against a Tea Party candidate, who is fuming over a $1.2 billion dam project for Kentucky which McConnell slipped in during negotiations to end the shutdown and debt limit crisis.

The Tea Party isn’t going anywhere just yet.