Monday, April 23, 2012

GOP Freshmen Turn into Frankenstein Monster

Just as the Republican Party leadership prostituted itself to the Christian Right, so too did the leadership pander to the Tea Party and Neanderthal elements seeking to sweep the party in 2010.  Having won a majority in the House of Representatives, these extremists soon showed their true colors and have been much of the cause of the GOP's inability to get legislation through Congress and its default position of opposing every Democrat initiative.  It's a classic case of focusing on short term advantage without thinking through the longer term consequences.  An article in the Washington Post addresses a new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” that looks at the debacle.  Here are highlights:

Time and again last year, House Republican leaders faced a nearly in­trac­table opponent: the very freshman class that propelled them into the majority with the historic 2010 midterm elections.  Revolting from the very outset of the 112th Congress and later wreaking internal havoc during talks to increase the Treasury’s ability to borrow funds, the massive freshman class repeatedly created problems for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), according to a new book.

The infighting reached such a point in the fall that some newcomers requested that the weekly freshman meetings be disbanded, because they had turned into shouting matches, with freshmen loudly criticizing the leaders.  “You’ve created a monster,” Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.), a former nurse elected in 2010, warned House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), according to Draper’s book.

Draper’s book was based on interviews with more than 50 House members, including some freshmen he interviewed more than a dozen times, as well as many current and former senior aides. The resulting work paints a different picture than that often presented by Boehner’s leadership team, which frequently proclaimed there was no “freshman problem,” as the group’s overall voting patterns were similar to those of the rest of the GOP conference.

Accounting for nearly 40 percent of Boehner’s conference, the freshmen exercised their clout early and often, imposing their will on the rest of the House Republicans. 

“I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team,” Rep. Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho) told the book’s author.  The very first major bill brought the first revolt, when leaders presented a funding bill for federal agencies that cut $33 billion from the previous year’s tally. Labrador rushed to the microphones at the Capitol basement meeting to promote the $100 billion in cuts that had been promised in the 2010 campaign manifesto.

“Some of the freshmen don’t have a grasp of what the facts are, and they’re going to rebel. You’d be finished,” Reps. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio) warned Boehner, according to Draper’s interviews with two of the men.

The leadership has clearly lost control of the patients who constitute the majority in the asylum know as the GOP.  The Frankenstein Monster has been unleashed and only severe electoral defeats will rein it in.

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