A divided GOP will fall

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.

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Would that this were some run-of-the-mill spat between Tea Party Republicans and an outlier like Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain: Leak of Trump dossier ‘totally wrong’ McCain proposes 0B defense budget for 2018 The Obama presidency that never was MORE. But Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulSanders, Dems defend ObamaCare at Michigan rally Paul: Medicaid expansion 'the big question' Rand Paul: ObamaCare replacement goal is to insure most people at lowest cost MORE (R-Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are lambasting each other in personal terms as Texas Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGraham, Cruz proposal to defund the U.N. is misguided Right renews push for term limits as Trump takes power Dissenting nominees give hope to GOP skeptics of Trump MORE and his top staff insult establishment senators like Tom CoburnTom CoburnCoburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways Rethinking taxation MORE (Okla.) and criticize the entire House Republican Conference. The conservative-on-conservative take-down is so toxic it has some Republicans longing for the days of responding to kooky criticisms from former Sen. Jim DeMint. 

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 LeeRight renews push for term limits as Trump takes power Conservatives press Trump on Supreme Court pick Overnight Finance: Ethics chief blasts Trump business plan | Senate begins late-night marathon vote | Lawmakers look to rein in Trump on trade MORE (R-Utah) is circulating a petition, which notables like Cruz and Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio wades into Trump-Lewis feud 19 companies that Trump has tweeted about Ex-Dem gov: I would have picked Giuliani over Tillerson 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 BluntTrump told of unsubstantiated Russian effort to compromise him Overnight Tech: Tech listens for clues at Sessions hearing | EU weighs expanding privacy rule | Senators blast Backpage execs A bitter end to the VA status quo MORE (Mo.), McCain, Richard BurrRichard BurrTrump education pick to face Warren, Sanders Senate Intel panel to probe Trump team's ties to Russia Trump's CIA nominee seeks to calm nerves MORE (N.C.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerSchumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal Will Rubio vote for Tillerson? Senators wrestle with whether to back Tillerson 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 BoehnerAn anti-government ideologue like Mulvaney shouldn't run OMB Boehner endorses DeVos for Education secretary Trump, House GOP could clash over 'Buy America' MORE (R-Ohio) conspicuously dodges any commitment to the plan, it’s not so easy for Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report Five things to watch in round two of Trump confirmation fights This week: Confirmation fights dominate ahead of inauguration 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.