The December 13 deadline to pass a budget is fast approaching, and Ted Cruz hasn't ruled out another government shutdown to continue his Defund Obamacare campaign. But moderate Republicans in both houses are promising to speak up during this round of budget talks. The loudest among them is Rep. Peter King, but Sen. Susan Collins and Reps. Charlie Dent and Patrick Meehan have also suggested that they're not going to take it anymore.
"We have to be more outspoken upfront," King told Politico. Dent, who represents a moderate district in Pennsylvania, agreed: "I can assure you that the next time around, people are going to have their eyes wide open. I believe there will be a lot of folks speaking up. Aggressively, in fact."
Collins went on PBS NewsHour at the end of last week to call for an end to damaging partisan bickering: "The American people are clearly frustrated and fed up with the partisan gridlock and the excessive partisanship that they're seeing in Washington." The shutdown strategy was "never going to be successful, and it was a fantasy to think that it was." Collins was one of seven Republican senators who worked with Democrats to end the shutdown.
For his part, King already has a campaign against Cruz ready to go, which he shared with Politico. Slogans include: "Ted Cruz cost the economy $24 billion," and "Ted Cruz forced the Republican Party to its lowest levels ever and in that period, made Obamacare more popular." The second one could be a bit snappier, but you see his point.
So will King and the others be able to shout-out the Tea Party during this round of budget negotiations? Things are looking more hopeful. Republicans know the shutdown cost them in the polls. And House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan has said he is focusing on "achievable goals" in this round of negotiations, backing away from any kind of "grand bargain." The trick will be making sure the House leadership supports Ryan this time, not Cruz. That's where a more vocal moderate Republican caucus comes in.
King says that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner "were all the ones being targeted by these [Tea Party] guys and … it made it harder for them to push back." Meehan agrees that this time, the moderates need a unified front: "We’re probably going to do more to talk to ourselves to try to be a little bit more unified and to put some thought into where we think we ought to be."
If things go the way Ryan wants them to, Democrats will allow some entitlement reforms in exchange for ending the sequester (which many Republicans want to see finished, as well, as the next round of cuts will target defense spending).
Ryan called out his buddies in the House before budget talks began, basically asking them to let him do his job:
"I want to get things done. I don’t want to waste a term in Congress doing nothing. I was sent here to do something to solve problems. My colleagues asked me to chair the budget committee again, and I do want to get something done."
Cruz still thinks his message is appealing, however. His spokeswoman Catherine Grazier told Politico, “Americans are interested in what their elected officials are doing to defend their interests, not in bickering among politicians.”