The Republican suicide caucus

By Peter Fenn – 02/28/13 06:04 PM ET

The good news is that the House has finally passed the Violence Against Women Act. The reauthorization of the 20-year-old law is now headed to the president’s desk after previous defeats by House Republicans.

The truly bad news is that 138 Republicans voted no and 164 voted to eviscerate it with a senseless amendment.

Make no mistake, these are big numbers.  The fringe of the Republican Party in the House is no longer the “fringe.”  They are the majority.

The political pressure was so great that at least it came to a vote in the House.  Yet, a large majority of the 232 Republicans still opposed the legislation.  Is this really the message that Republicans want to send, that they are against a law that is two decades old and has worked remarkably well?What is scary for the Republicans is that they are setting a precedent for coming across as extreme, defiant, unreasonable and harsh.

Let’s look at the math on the two other pieces of legislation that were given a vote on the House floor without a majority of Republican support. (Contrary to the so-called “Hastert rule,” named after former Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), who held that you should have a majority of your caucus to bring legislation before the full House.)

The legislation to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy was rejected by 179 Republicans. Efforts to avert the disastrous “fiscal cliff” in December were rejected by 151 Republicans.

If you begin to examine the “Tea Party problem” you soon discover that the Republican caucus is full of members who pride themselves in their extremism.  There are currently 49 members of the official Michele Bachmann Tea Party Caucus.

That is over 20 percent, with many more supporting the rigid ideology.  Really, you want to follow Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)?

Despite the last election, where they were beaten so decisively by female voters, Republicans remain adamant in their opposition to legislation to help women.

They also insist on opposing policies that have strong support among a majority of all voters:  helping Sandy victims, a balanced approach of revenue increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, preventing a sequester that will harm large numbers of Americans.

To the vast majority of the Republican caucus, compromise is a four-letter word.  They will oppose even reasonable legislation if it is not to their total liking.

As Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) put it in the upcoming New Yorker article on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.):  “If this were football, some of these guys would know only one play, and that’s to throw deep every time.”

It is policy suicide and it is political suicide.

To stay with the Coburn analogy, it does not move the ball down the field. It is very easy for the other side to play against, and it shows no imagination or creativity. Sadly, for the Republicans, the voters get that. And sadly for the country, in most instances it prevents us from solving our most difficult problems.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that House Republicans may be hard-pressed to shed that image.


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