By A.B. Stoddard - 07/31/13 10:25 PM EDT
Buy a ticket and have a seat — the curtain is up on the GOP’s implosion as high-profile Republicans considered future leaders and presidential contenders insult and accuse each other, hurling enough cable news kindling around to not only break through the story of Anthony Weiner’s self-immolation but to make President Obama look like the grown-up heading into the budget battle this fall. This was no easy feat.
Forget conservative revolts on the farm bill or immigration reform; after a season of legislative avoidance, Congress will return in September to face deadlines for funding the government and raising the debt ceiling on which GOP division is nearly as stark as the divide between the two parties. What’s more, recent disagreements on national security policy have now split Republicans into two camps of hawks and doves.
It was Christie who first took a swipe at freshman Sens. Paul and Cruz several days ago to separate himself from “the strain of libertarianism” in foreign policy he believes is “dangerous.” Paul hit back and accused Christie of a “gimme, gimme, gimme” posture on spending that prompted the governor to note that Kentucky receives $1.50 for every dollar it receives from the federal government compared to the 60 cents New Jersey receives. Paul then called Christie “the King of Bacon” and warned “it’s not helping the party for him to pick a war with me.”
Meanwhile, Congress departs days from now for a five-week recess, during which time they are expected to somehow find consensus on how to proceed with the coming spending battle this fall. Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeReid: Cruz, Lee on Supreme Court should 'scare you' Cruz: Boehner unleashed his ‘inner Trump’ Senate pressured to take up email privacy bill after overwhelming House vote MORE (R-Utah) is circulating a petition, which notables like Cruz and Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioOvernight Healthcare: First House Republican backs Obama Zika request Time to wake-up to the Venezuelan Crisis First GOP rep backs Obama’s Zika funding request MORE (R-Fla.) signed on to, declaring that no spending bill should be approved to fund the government if it includes spending for ObamaCare. Republicans worried about this strategy — for which the party will likely be blamed in a shutdown after the president vetoes the bill to defund his signature accomplishment — are calling it everything from “silly” to “political suicide.” They include Sens. Roy BluntRoy BluntOvernight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Senate GOP hardening stance against emergency funding for Zika Senate Dems accuse GOP of walking away from Zika deal MORE (Mo.), McCain, Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: The establishment comes around Intel leaders push controversial encryption draft Moulitsas: 2016 dim for GOP MORE (N.C.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerIran and heavy water: Five things to know Trump seeks approval from foreign policy experts, but hits snags The Trail 2016: The establishment comes around MORE (Tenn.), who are now, according to Cruz’s staff, members of the “surrender caucus.” Cruz himself has dismissed as “cocktail chatter” this notion that a government shutdown will come back to haunt Republicans, and is seeking to counter what he called “a powerful, defeatist approach among Republicans in Washington.”
Some 60 House Republicans have signed a similar measure and are pressing House leadership — which had other ideas in mind — to climb aboard. These lawmakers are of course being goaded by Cruz, who is mocking their “empty, symbolic” votes to repeal ObamaCare.
While Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerCruz confronts Trump supporter Graham: 'Lucifer may be the only person Trump can beat in a general election' Obama mocks GOP, media and himself in final WHCA dinner address MORE (R-Ohio) conspicuously dodges any commitment to the plan, it’s not so easy for Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellReid: Judiciary a 'rubber stamp' for Trump-McConnell Iran and heavy water: Five things to know Overnight Finance: House rejects financial adviser rule; Obama rebukes Sanders on big banks MORE (R-Ky.). The Senate minority leader now faces a conservative challenger in his GOP primary and is under pressure to sign on to the Cruz Crusade because his opponent, Matt Bevin, already has. In order to win in 2014, McConnell might not be able to govern. But in order to win the White House in 2016, at least one Republican will most certainly have to be willing to govern instead of putting on skits. Being a grown-up will help, too.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.