The GOP's Worst Strategists Are Mad About the GOP's Debt Ceiling Strategy

The conservatives responsible for the government shutdown last October are very angry that House Republicans will pass a debt ceiling increase, because they seem to have forgotten how the shutdown ended.

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The conservatives responsible for the government shutdown last October are very angry that House Republicans refuse to demand concessions before approving a debt ceiling increase, because they seem to have forgotten how the shutdown ended.

In case you missed it, House Republicans decided on Tuesday to pass an unaltered increase to the debt ceiling. It's been a protracted debate, hopping from demanding passage of the Keystone pipeline or a tweak to Obamacare to a roll-back of concessions made in December to, now, a clean increase.

From the start, everyone knew the fight would end like this, since the Democratically-controlled Senate wouldn't pass and President Obama wouldn't sign anything besides a clean bill. And this is precisely why the Republicans were forced to capitulate during the October shutdown last year — because the debt ceiling needed to be raised and Democrats would only do so without any riders.

But conservatives are still mad! There's this idea that since the debt ceiling needs to be passed in order to avoid unknown damage to broader American economy, it's a good time to force concessions from the Senate and the president. Which is a little like figuring you'll build a tollbooth across your street after you've invited the entire United States Army to come marching past. Good luck collecting.

RedState's Erick Erickson, who spent much of last summer pushing hard for the completely disastrous shutdown as a strategy to block Obamacare, is simply fuming about today's concession. Writing about Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, he asks, "How many times are they going to yank the football away from themselves before Republican voters kick them to the curb?," he writes. Also: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA" (twice) in re: the Republicans' stated plan to fight over a new funding resolution instead of the debt. Erickson even compares Boehner and Cantor's current position to what they said last year: that they would demand concessions. And then that completely failed, of course — but why not try again, I guess.

A number of other conservatives got ahead of the clean-bill decision to complain. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who worked arm-in-arm with Erickson on the shutdown, said he hoped the House "doesn’t go down that road." "President Obama is asking Congress to give him a blank check; to allow him to keep maxing out the credit card without doing anything to fix the problem," Cruz said on Monday according to Roll Call. Which is wrong; a better analogy is that Congress gave itself the blank check on spending and then debated whether or not to let Obama pay the bill. But that's a clunkier talking point.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, with which Cruz was aligned before he got so unpopular in the aftermath of the shutdown that he had to swear them off, is calling for Boehner to lose his position.

Republicans are giving up because they know that winning is impossible when their leaders are determined to lose. These leaders have telegraphed weakness to the Democrats and sabotaged conservative efforts so many times that Republicans now have no leverage. There's only one solution.

John Boehner must be replaced as Speaker of the House.

Emphasis in the original. Please note: SCF is mostly only doing this to get people to sign its petition, which then gives them peoples' email addresses, which then will be sent fundraising appeals. After all, what leverage does the "Senate Conservative Fund" — a group aimed at launching conservative primary challenges against Republican senators — have with the House? This is primarily about position and influence.

And so far: that's worked. Erickson and Cruz and SCF are the reason that this is a painful moment for Republicans. By hyping the dual ideas that 1) a debt ceiling increase allows the government to incur more debt (which it doesn't), and that 2) simply by being obstinate they could get Democrats to concede policy points — even after they saw that it wouldn't happen — the House caucus was put into a position where they would lose either way. And now Erickson et al are furious that they lost.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.