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Tea Party Republicans Get Ready to Disappoint Tea Party

(photo: Chrstopher)

John Boehner, energized by his victory on a two-week stopgap spending plan, razzed Harry Reid this morning, saying that Reid had “no plan to cut spending and keep the government running.” Reid’s spokesman, Jon Summers, replied that these were tough words from someone who doesn’t have control of his caucus. But is that true? My sense is actually no.

Sure, the freshman tea partiers talk a good game. They have a base who doesn’t want to compromise on anything, and who would rather defund the health care law and go well beyond the $61 billion in budget cuts they settled on last month. And people like Allen West make big statements about standing firm to convictions. But when it comes down to it, the freshman Republicans basically stick together on votes. And that usually means going along with whatever Boehner and the leadership put up there. Sure, they had a few missteps, but in general the party unity has been pretty remarkable. For example, yesterday’s two-week stopgap vote had only 6 Republican defectors, despite cries that the spending cuts were too low.

House Republicans also don’t seem concerned about the restoration of their riders in the overall continuing resolution. They’ll let health care get funded, for example.

When the House passed a seven-month funding bill last month, it included scores of riders, which deny funding to the Obama administration to do — well, many things: implement the health care law, implement environmental regulations, the list goes on. Neither President Obama, nor the Democratic Senate are likely to accept most of them as part of a longer-term “continuing resolution,” and so the question now is whether those House Republicans will revolt.

“I’m strongly pushing to have mine continue to be part of the final package because it got such an overwhelming bipartisan vote,” says Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), whose amendment defunding certain Obama administration advisory positions (or as Republicans prefer it “czars”) passed with the help of several Democrats.

Scalise says Republicans will fight hard to keep these provisions in the final spending bill, and then return again for the next budget fight to extract more flesh.

“Ultimately we know that the real battle is with the budget,” Scalise told me. “And however the CRs, short-term, long-term, playout, the real longer-term policy is going to be [addressed] in the budget in the next few months.” […]

Freshman Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) says he imagines Republicans will vote for the final spending bill, even if it doesn’t deny funds to the health care law.

“You’ll probably see us do our very best to defund it, but at the end of the day it does come down to the math, and were we able to change the direction of spending,” he told reporters during a House vote Tuesday.

“I don’t think there will be a lot of anger depending on what that topline dollar amount is,” he said. “That’s why they’re working on the 2012 budget…. It’s not like this was our only bite at the apple.”

John Boehner is not some master strategist or anything. But the truth is that, as long as House Republicans can claim a pretext of victory and steer enough rewards to their wealthy contributors, they’re going to be happy. The base will be angry, but that’s life in the big city.

The question is whether Democrats understand this, and can exploit this. I’m not all that hopeful.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Tea Party Republicans Get Ready to Disappoint Tea Party

John Boehner, energized by his victory on a two-week stopgap spending plan, razzed Harry Reid this morning, saying that Reid had “no plan to cut spending and keep the government running.” Reid’s spokesman, Jon Summers, replied that these were tough words from someone who doesn’t have control of his caucus. But is that true? My sense is actually no.

Sure, the freshman tea partiers talk a good game. They have a base who doesn’t want to compromise on anything, and who would rather defund the health care law and go well beyond the $61 billion in budget cuts they settled on last month. And people like Allen West make big statements about standing firm to convictions. But when it comes down to it, the freshman Republicans basically stick together on votes. And that usually means going along with whatever Boehner and the leadership put up there. Sure, they had a few missteps, but in general the party unity has been pretty remarkable. For example, yesterday’s two-week stopgap vote had only 6 Republican defectors, despite cries that the spending cuts were too low.

House Republicans also don’t seem concerned about the restoration of their riders in the overall continuing resolution. They’ll let health care get funded, for example.

When the House passed a seven-month funding bill last month, it included scores of riders, which deny funding to the Obama administration to do — well, many things: implement the health care law, implement environmental regulations, the list goes on. Neither President Obama, nor the Democratic Senate are likely to accept most of them as part of a longer-term “continuing resolution,” and so the question now is whether those House Republicans will revolt.

“I’m strongly pushing to have mine continue to be part of the final package because it got such an overwhelming bipartisan vote,” says Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), whose amendment defunding certain Obama administration advisory positions (or as Republicans prefer it “czars”) passed with the help of several Democrats.

Scalise says Republicans will fight hard to keep these provisions in the final spending bill, and then return again for the next budget fight to extract more flesh.

“Ultimately we know that the real battle is with the budget,” Scalise told me. “And however the CRs, short-term, long-term, playout, the real longer-term policy is going to be [addressed] in the budget in the next few months.” […]

Freshman Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) says he imagines Republicans will vote for the final spending bill, even if it doesn’t deny funds to the health care law.

“You’ll probably see us do our very best to defund it, but at the end of the day it does come down to the math, and were we able to change the direction of spending,” he told reporters during a House vote Tuesday.

“I don’t think there will be a lot of anger depending on what that topline dollar amount is,” he said. “That’s why they’re working on the 2012 budget…. It’s not like this was our only bite at the apple.”

John Boehner is not some master strategist or anything. But the truth is that, as long as House Republicans can claim a pretext of victory and steer enough rewards to their wealthy contributors, they’re going to be happy. The base will be angry, but that’s life in the big city.

The question is whether Democrats understand this, and can exploit this. I’m not all that hopeful.

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David Dayen

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