Will Any Republican Call Out Cruz’s Failed Planned Parenthood Strategy?

Bill Scher

If one of the Republican candidates has the guts at tonight’s debate, he or she will slam Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for letting President Obama win the budget battle.

Two months ago I warned conservatives that “Cruz’s Planned Parenthood Strategy Will Backfire.” The math was obvious. Convincing a minority faction to withhold support for keeping the government open “wouldn’t force resistant Republicans and Democrats to take up the banner of defunding Planned Parenthood. It would only force congressional Republicans to rely on Democratic votes to keep the government open.”

I explained to them what the end result would be: “Instead of passing a Republican bill that cuts domestic spending, putting maximum pressure on President Obama to accept at least some of those cuts, congressional Democrats will be able to force Republicans into accepting either a budgetary status quo or further relief from the ‘sequester’ cuts in the 2011 budget deal.”

And here we are: a two-year budget deal that in the first year adds $66 billion in spending above the sequester cap, just a hair less of what Obama initially proposed in his February budget. Percentage-wise, Obama hasn’t gotten this much from one of his spending proposals out of Congress since the 2009 Recovery Act.

If one the candidates on the debate stage wants to shake up the race, he or she will turn to Cruz and say:

“That’s great that you wanted to defund Planned Parenthood. But conservatives everywhere also wanted to cut government spending. Yet you concocted a ridiculous legislative strategy with no plan to win, that divided our party and handed all the negotiating leverage to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. How many times are we going to let you lead us into a ditch?”

Such an attack would implicitly acknowledge that Republicans were so easily manipulated by Cruz because they are chronically distracted by the right-wing outrage du jour. That might cut a little too close to the bone.

But devout conservatives have an interest in kicking Cruz to the curb. Thanks to his strategic ineptitude, we can see more clearly that there is a bipartisan majority that rejects right-wing austerity.

Since the 2010 House takeover, the Republican Party has voted in lockstep for radical budgets that would gut government. But that party unity was forced by far-right pressure tactics.

With the power of the House Freedom Caucus sapped by House Speaker John Boehner’s exit, a more honest picture of Congress’ ideological center of gravity emerged. The Hill estimates that about 100 Republicans will join the vast majority of Democrats in support of this budget deal that will grow the federal budget.

These rational Republicans may not be full-blown Keynesians, but they are at least, as former congressman Barney Frank once said, “weaponized Keynesians.” They want to spend more money on the military, and they want it bad enough that they’re willing to give Democrats more social spending to get it.

And there is still hope that the Republican Congress can pass a multiyear transportation funding bill. The Senate passed a version in July, and a House committee moved its own this week. Surely a bipartisan majority exists.

But the House-Senate differences won’t be resolved before Boehner skips town Friday, and we don’t know how presumptive Speaker Paul Ryan will handle right-wing griping over another dose of spending.

Job-creating spending. In many congressional districts.

Boehner’s abdication fails to completely neuter the House Freedom Caucus, which will still have the power to stage a coup so long as they don’t agree to a significant change in the House rules. But Ryan will see this week where the Congress really stands on spending, and how America reacts to the agreement.

Soon enough, he’ll have to decide where he stands. With the anti-spending nihilists? Or with the voters who understands that the basic functions of government cost money?

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