Negotiating with an anti-government insurgency: the GOP’s Suicide Caucus

“We’re not going to be disrespected, We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” – Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), verbalizing the entire Republican Party’s strategy on the government shutdown.

“Why in the world would you do that? That’s basically, at this point, a surrender to the Democratic position.” — Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), suggesting that to the GOP, compromise and negotiation are “surrender” and that the extremists in the House are prepared to withhold support for a government funding bill and the debt ceiling increase.

“I am exasperated with the idea that unless I say [to] 20 million people, ‘you can’t have health insurance, they will not reopen the government.‘ That is irresponsible.”President Obama, explaining his exasperation with John Boehner and the House Republicans.

18 Republicans have said they would vote for a clean CR, which combined with Democrats means there are enough votes to pass legislation reopening the government.

E.J. Dionne — Why this shutdown is different — And it’s different because the Republicans have no coherent strategy. Their leaders, as one Republican put it to me, have been laying track just ahead of the train as it roars forward.

They are making insulting offers — for example, proposing to fund a few parts of the government that they cherry-pick while allowing the rest to languish. House Speaker John Boehner’s approach has been driven by fear: fear of the most right-wing House members, fear of rabid talk-show hosts, fear of the Frankenstein monster of fanatical organizations the party has relied upon to gin up the faithful.

…The government is shut for only one reason: Boehner wants to keep his job. This is not a sufficient cause for throwing hundreds of thousands of other people out of theirs. “This is the conservative right versus the reckless right,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Budget Committee Democrat. “The country should not become the victim of the Republican civil war.”

Which is why the only way out is for the growing number of Republicans on the responsible side of the skirmish to insist that the whole charade be called off. There should be negotiations all right, but on real budget issues, and for the long term — after the government is opened and the debt ceiling raised. The House and Senate can then engage in the kind of normal compromise-seeking discussions that the GOP has so far resisted.

Matt Yglesias wants to see Obama and the Democrats stand firm — [F]rom the standpoint of the country as a whole, a debt ceiling breach in 2013 is no more disastrous than a breach in 2017 or 2022. And the problem with “cutting a deal” with Republicans is that it essentially makes an eventual breach inevitable. If the hostage-taking gambit works, then it will be used over and over again until it goes wrong.

Ed Kilgore wants to see some attitudes adjusted sooner rather than later – Now I don’t know anything about the president’s relationship with Boehner. But it’s becoming a matter of national security for him to find some way to take him aside, maybe give the Speaker a cigarette from his secret stash, and say: “I will see you in Hell before I negotiate over the debt limit. And if you let a default happen, I will devote the rest of my presidency to making sure you, personally, bear the blame, and go down in history with our most despised traitors and criminals. For generations, little school children in Ohio will cross themselves and make hex signs when your name is mentioned. So do not, do not, go back and tell your crazy people they can win if they just stick together.”

Here’s what it must be like to negotiate with the Suicide Caucus right now:

Steve Benen — As for the nature of “negotiations,” Democrats have urged Republicans to begin budget talks for the last six months, with Republicans refusing literally every request…

For the last 36 hours or so, the GOP line is that they’re now eager to talk to Democrats about the budget, and can’t imagine why Dems won’t join them at the negotiating table. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reached out to Boehner today — with a letter and in a phone call — saying the moment Republicans end their shutdown, budget talks can begin. Boehner again refused because, well, it’s not clear why. Apparently the Speaker wants the government to be shut down.

As for the Republicans’ broader posture, it’s genuinely remarkable. After forgetting what “compromise” means, GOP lawmakers now seem confused by what “negotiate” means.

Mapping the anti-government insurgency‘s network of cells: 


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