A Congress of Supervillains

(Source: AP via CNN)

Poor T.S. Eliot: it seems the world will end with a bang instead of a whimper.

At least that’s the plan the Tea Party wing of the House has for the government shutdown. The word in D.C. is that “phase two” is to keep the government closed through October 17.

Crashing our economy and the world’s if Republicans don’t get their way. It may sound loonier than any plot hatched by Dr. Evil, but that is their plan.

Why October 17? Because that’s when the debt limit crisis will hit, which will disrupt the world economy but so what? By God, if destroying the world’s economy is what it takes to make that Kenyan-born Muslim in the White House to capitulate to our demands then let’s roll!

It may sound loonier than any plot hatched by Dr. Evil, but that is the plan. This idea is even being pushed by the so-called “Republican moderates” who claim they want a vote on a bill to reopen the government, but also say it should be tied to a debt limit deal to force the president and Senate to make “concessions.” Or, as one Tea Party leaders declared: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

The plan itself was detailed in conservative pundit Kathleen Parker’s column: she endorsed the plan by declaring the media doesn’t get the real context. Shutting down the government and panicking world markets, Parker declaims, is just smart politics to leverage Obama to “negotiate.”

Parker also offers a silly idea of how this plan could work: once Republicans start rattling the world economy using the debt limit, international leaders will ring Obama’s phone off the hook and when Germany’s Angela Merkel starts screaming at him, victory!

Sadly, compared to Parker, many House Republicans and their majordomo, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, seem even more detached from reality. Even the Republican Party’s biggest donors no longer have any influence. A week before the shutdown, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, assisted by 250 local chapters, sent an open letter to Congress demanding both that there be no shutdown and they quickly raise the debt limit to protect the economy.

House Republicans didn’t care: most agreed with California’s Dana Rohrabacher who flatly stated it didn’t matter to him what the business lobby thinks but he’ll go to any lengths to kill health care reform. (Well, short of forfeiting his $174,000 salary, that is: during a heated on CNN Rohrabacher insisted he was entitled to every penny of pay, health care and pension and that bringing it up was a distraction.)

Anyway, Republican demands are nothing but extortion: we know this because six months ago, House Republicans demanded the Senate pass an actual budget so they could put Obamacare on the table and negotiate it through a conference committee. Shockingly, the Senate did pass a budget and invited the House to a conference committee.

Except the House never wanted any negotiation where Obamacare was just altered. So when the Senate tried to force the issue through bipartisan vote to force the House into a conference, Senators Rand Paul and Cruz (with the tacit support of the Tea Party) filibustered negotiation.

Sadly, some in the media (and not just Fox News) are ignoring this recent history and reporting it that way, with much of the media doing the “both sides are at fault” story, ignoring how House leaders and the Senate’s “Cruz caucus” could have come to the table last spring but instead pushed the “shutdown option” as the “last, best, chance to kill Obamacare.”

Last week, Italian strongman Silvio Berlusconi attempted to shutdown the Italian government in a scheme to expand his power—and he was quickly shot down when members of own party rebelled while the media (including a few outlets he owned) were relentless in reporting his attempted power grab.

It has come to this.

The government of Italy is more mature, more responsible and flat out better than the U.S. House of Representatives.


Peter Lindstrom is a political consultant and researcher. He lives in Washington, D.C.