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The GOP at Captitol Hill: Chaos, control is their goal

Lee A. Daniels | 8/18/2014, 6:54 p.m.
Three events occurred in the tight confines of Capitol Hill last week that underscore the Republican Party’s extraordinary institutional decline ...
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. NNPA

(NNPA) – Three events occurred in the tight confines of Capitol Hill last week that underscore the Republican Party’s extraordinary institutional decline and its responsibility for Congress fully deserving its “do-nothing” label.

First, early in the week, all but seven Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to give Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio the go-ahead to sue President Obama because they claim his executive orders are in violation of the constitution. The purpose of that “political stunt” – the president’s words for the lawsuit, which he and the Democrats have come to relish for the 2014 campaign – is to keep alive the GOP’s rhetoric about impeaching the president if the November elections give them control of the Senate.

Secondly, later in the week Boehner was forced to give up on a GOP-drafted bill to authorize emergency funds for the government’s efforts to cope with the sudden crisis of undocumented immigrant children massing at the U.S-Mexico border. The first-level reason for that stunning rebuke of a speaker of the House by his own party members was that GOP hard-line conservatives made it clear they wouldn’t vote for their own party’s bill.

But what made the rebuke to Boehner even more humiliating was the week’s third noteworthy event – which was actually a facet of the second. That was that the hard-liners had been urged on by the tea party’s favorite U.S. senator, Ted Cruz of Texas. According to numerous media reports, Cruz had met with a dozen or more of the House hard-liners the night before the scheduled July 31 vote to declare his opposition to it. The next day, Boehner, clearly seeing he didn’t have the votes for passage, pulled the bill from consideration.

Boehner allies in the House pledged to try to get a spending measure enacted before Congress broke for the summer recess. But the real point of the week’s developments had been made – reinforcing what has been evident since Obama took office.

First, in the midst of a crisis, when America’s national government needs to act swiftly, count on the Republican Party, driven by its reflexive anti-Obama mania, to oppose any positive action. Secondly, the GOP, which still boasts about its adherence to tradition and conservative principles, remains wracked by an internal battle between conservative extremists and establishment regulars only slightly less vicious than its war against the president.

That civil war these past six years has produced the electoral primary defeats of such staunch GOP veterans as former Senators Robert Bennett of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana and, in June, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – all deemed not conservative enough by the GOP’s tea party reactionaries.

Cruz, who’s been running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination since his election in 2012, has waged the war of disruption against the GOP congressional establishment in both the House and the Senate in unprecedented fashion. From the first, he’s been eager to show his disrespect of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Boehner. His meddling in House matters last week marks the second time he’s undercut Boehner in order to grab the spotlight and build support among the GOP’s reactionary base. Last year, he was among the loudest voices urging GOP hard-liners to stand fast for a government shutdown.