Divisions within the Republican Party are threatening to bring the government to the precipice of financial collapse. Based on the vote held in the House of Representatives, the Republican Party’s goal seems to be holding the fiscal debates hostage to cut off funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As Congress careens through this messy fiscal negotiation, a lack of coordination and an absolute absence of cooperation threaten to throw the debates — and America — over the edge of ruin.
Fortunately for the Democrats, divisions are emerging within the Republicans over the best way to defund the ACA. This lack of coordination in the Republican Party might be ultimately beneficial for resolving the fiscal negotiations and preserving the ACA. The absence of a coordinated opposition to the ACA will have far-reaching political consequences for the GOP: It will portray them as a divided party, willing to put the nation’s economic recovery at risk to halt a singular law.
Though cooperation between both parties is usually necessary for passing legislation in such a divided government, the GOP’s failure to coordinate will actually help make a solution to the government shutdown possible. The GOP is a house divided: it might be bad for them, but in this case, that is good for the U.S.
After a bill from the House to defund the ACA and maintain the present levels of government funding passed on a party-line vote, the Senate took up the measure. Referring to the bill as “dead on arrival,” Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) swore that a bill would return to the House at the end of the week that removed the ACA-stripping language, forcing House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the House Republicans to either shut down the government, or accept it.
According to the Washington Post, even as the bill arrived from the House, some GOP Senators were plotting to delay its transfer back to the House, drawing fire from minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Arizona Senator John McCain.
When a procedural vote to consider the bill came up, Tea Party darling Ted Cruz (R-Texas) delivered the fourth-longest speech in Senate history, holding the floor for just over 21 hours in an attempt to block debate, according to NBC News. At the conclusion of his speech, the Senate promptly voted 100-0 to bring the bill up for consideration.
Antics such as Cruz’s filibuster actually increase the chances of resolving the government shutdown. According to CBS News, the House will not get the bill back until at least Sunday because of the time necessary to debate and amend the legislation. This will leave Boehner just hours to avoid a government shutdown, and no time to send a different bill to the Senate. Given that a shutdown would be disastrous for the GOP’s approval ratings — as they would be the party last holding the bag — most indicators point to them sending the Senate bill (with the ACA intact) to President Barack Obama’s desk.
Coordination within the GOP is necessary to preserve the party as a functioning, cohesive unit. The time and place to make a case for repealing the ACA will come in the spring, when the sequestration cuts are revisited. At that time, Republicans can easily make the case for more affordable health care, in conjunction with fixing the arbitrary cuts levied by the sequester.
Every day spent haggling over the ACA now only takes away from the GOP’s credibility to attack the law at a time that actually makes sense. More importantly, preserving credibility for the spring term will enable real discussions between the Democrats and the Republicans on the future of the law. If the present trend is any indication, however, the Democrats might have the last laugh.
Nathaniel Haas is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science. His column “A House Divided” runs Thursdays.
Follow Nathaniel on Twitter @Haas4Prez2036