GOP hostage holdup

For a bunch who like to drone on and on about the Constitution, it looks like Tea Party Republicans really need to reread their pocket edition.

Laws are passed (and repealed) through a very specific process: a bill passes the House. That bill passes the Senate. The president signs that bill into law or vetoes it; if vetoed, the House and Senate can try to override with a two-thirds majority. Pretty simple in design, actually.

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Democrats got the Affordable Care Act passed using this system after a painful 14 months of negotiations and debate. They got bills passed in both the House and Senate before the president signed the law into existence. But Republicans don’t want to be bothered by that constitutionally prescribed process — that would require things like “winning elections” and “broadening their appeal,” neither of which has been on their agenda of late. Thus, rather than using the democratic process to enact their agenda, they’ve decided to use their perch from the minority to upend the legislative process.

Remember, this isn’t a Republican Party that won a democratic majority anywhere in government. Despite making ObamaCare repeal a major plank of their electoral effort, Republicans handily lost the White House. They lost Senate seats, despite a map tailor-made for Republican pickups. And they retained control of the House only on the strength of their gerrymandering efforts: more than one million more House votes were cast for Democratic candidates than Republican ones in 2012. If ours was a truly representative government, Republicans would be in charge of nothing.

With permanent minority status a very real possibility, Republicans have resorted to more creative ways to assert themselves. Not content to merely obstruct, they’re now trying to move their agenda by shutting down the federal government and threatening global economic collapse by defaulting on the nation’s debt. The supposed party of “personal responsibility” wants to hold the world’s economy hostage unless their demands are met.

And if this situation wasn’t farcical enough, it turns out that there are enough Republican votes in the House to join Democrats in passing a clean bill funding the government — yet Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuses to allow a vote, fearing a right-flank insurrection that would cost him his Speakership.

Republicans have tried to blame Democrats for this mess, bleating that the president “won’t negotiate,” but really: should a homeowner “negotiate” with an arsonist threatening to burn down her house? If anything, Democrats have been too willing to surrender to the GOP these past five years. As a result, the GOP simply assumed Democrats would once again roll over. After all, it’s Democrats who believe in government. The nihilists in the GOP don’t care.

So Republicans are suddenly stunned by Democratic resolve and unity. “We are really in an unprecedented place,” wrote House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), bewildered that the president was “refusing to actively engage.” They assumed capitulation, and have no idea how to get themselves out of the crisis they’ve created. The American people, per the polls, certainly don’t back them up.

Consequently, we have the absurd situation where Republicans are screaming for concessions to save face, when the clean budget continuing resolution pegs government spending at levels below what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) first draconian plan demanded. Republicans have already won the spending battle, yet their inability to take “yes” for an answer has already shut down the government, and will soon threaten the global economy.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.