By Markos Moulitsas - 09/24/13 10:11 PM EDT
While the prospect of a government shutdown and national default tempers the mood, it’s hard not to laugh at the train wreck that is the GOP’s congressional delegation.
On one side of Capitol Hill we have Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE (R-Ohio), perhaps the weakest Speaker ever. Not only has he ceded control of his chamber to a minority Tea Party caucus, but that caucus is being puppeteered by one senator, and a freshman backbencher at that — Texas Republican Ted CruzTed CruzThe Hill's 12:30 Report Trump hires Florida chief strategist, new pollster Lynch pressured to recuse herself after Clinton tarmac meeting MORE.
The American public certainly isn’t interested; just 19 percent of respondents support shutting down the government and defaulting on our national debt in order to force defunding, according to a CNBC poll released Monday. Yet BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE was forced by Cruz into adding the unpopular defunding provision in the recently passed House budget.
Then we have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress fails on promises to restore regular order and stop funding by crisis Overnight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board MORE (R-Ky.), who is too electorally endangered to do much of anything, ceding his caucus leadership to the boisterous Cruz. McConnell’s reelection prospects might already be dim, but they would cease to exist if he were to do anything to counterbalance the lunacy from his Tea Party caucus. He’s been rendered mute in this debate, afraid to actually do his job.
It’s this leadership void that Cruz has filled, and it’s clear that he fancies himself in charge. This weekend he was demanding that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Finance: Obama signs Puerto Rico bill | Trump steps up attacks on trade | Dodd-Frank backers cheer 'too big to fail' decision | New pressure to fill Ex-Im board Iowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case MORE (D-Nev.) change regular Senate procedures to make it easier to vote for defunding. And as if trying to run the Senate isn’t enough, he’s continuing to bark orders at the House after he forced them to pass his defunding scheme, demanding that it “hold its ground and start passing smaller resolutions one department at a time.”
Key Republicans are still grousing about that House “victory,” responding with open resentment and recriminations. “Cruz keeps raising conservatives’ hopes, and then, when we give him what he wants, he doesn’t have a plan to follow through,” one congressional aide complained to the conservative National Review. “He’s an amateur.”
GOP Rep. Peter King of New York accused Cruz of perpetrating a “fraud against the American people” by convincing them ObamaCare could be defunded. Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerGingrich, Christie top Trump’s VP list: report Senate honors Tennessee coach Pat Summitt GOP senator: Something 'very, very good' can come from Brexit vote MORE (R-Tenn.) played the elitism card against Cruz, tweeting, “I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count — the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position.” Even staunch ally Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump campaign loses two more staffers Trump's new digital strategist quickly leaves campaign Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (R-Ky.) has taken a low profile in this battle, saying that “it’s not a good idea to shut down the government.”
Cruz is equally contemptuous of his critics — and, in fact, his party — saying back in May, “Let me be clear, I don’t trust the Republicans.” He followed that up last week by saying how “embarrassed” he was to have voted GOP in 2008. All this from a guy who supposedly is a co-chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
With recriminations flowing both ways, Cruz is alone and isolated in the Capitol, with only his faithful puppy dog Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeThe Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Trump to meet with Senate GOP next week First trans Senate candidate: My gender won’t be an issue MORE of Utah (R) to keep him company. But with millions of rank-and-file conservatives and their media rallying to his anti-GOP cause, he has every reason to stay emboldened and on course, wreaking havoc within his own party as he positions himself for that inevitable 2016 presidential run.
Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.