For the politics junkie, this is the DC version of Real Housewives. Maybe they’ll make a show of it one day: The Real Representatives of Tea Party County.
The workings of Congress are pretty fascinating. If you like The Borgias, The Tudors, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, then following the seemingly innocuous happenings in DC is a fascinating enterprise. You know that this is where the real action happens.
The media has been largely consumed with Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, and rightly so. On his first visit to our country, the leader of 1.6 billion Catholics deserves the attention.
But another event quietly unfolded during the Pope’s stay in the US, and it is one that will likely have major consequences for our government. Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, announced his resignation from Congress.
So what, you ask?
Well, the Republican Party has been in the throes of internal fighting for about four years now. “Establishment” politicians, like Boehner, are those who have been in Washington, D.C. for a while and are open to bipartisan deals (aka cooperating with Democrats). And “establishment” politicians are wildly unpopular with many conservative activists.
See: Donald Trump leading the polls.
Tabloid fans, you can get in on this too. Rumor has it that the “outsiders” in the House — all those non-establishment Tea Party Reps who have come in on a wave of voter anger over the past five years — were going to force Boehner out. They have, it is whispered, quite had it with Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, who are more concerned with how government actually works than with aggressive showboat actions.
Like shutting the government down. For the politics junkie, this is the DC version of Real Housewives. Maybe they’ll make a show of it one day: The Real Representatives of Tea Party County.
How does shutting the government down work, exactly? Well, Congressional members decide to send a budget to the president that he either can’t, or won’t, sign onto. Without agreement between POTUS and Congress, the money stops. Hence, government services must be suspended.
If it seems extreme, that’s because it is.
The threat right now is coming over videos released on Planned Parenthood. These films purport to show several PP employees discussing the sale of fetus body parts, and implying at times that the remains are sold for a profit. This is highly illegal, and some of the video content is disturbing at best.
But as establishment politicians have pointed out, defunding Planned Parenthood would be almost entirely symbolic. Regardless of personal feelings on abortion, most of their funding is not even controlled by Congress, and Planned Parenthood spends only 3% of its resources on abortion.
Nevermind all that. The Real Reps of Tea Party County want a throwdown, and Boehner was not going to give it to them.
Thus, Boehner had two choices: Step down, or face a vote that could remove him as speaker. He chose the former, and will be leaving Congress after October.
In a strange twist, this makes a government shutdown less likely. Since Boehner is already announcing his exit, he doesn’t have any incentive to kowtow to the Real Reps demands. Instead, he’ll probably do whatever he wants, and that includes keeping the government open.
Where the drama kicks in is speculation on who will replace Boehner. It is likely the next speaker will come from the Real Reps caucus. That should make for high drama on the DC plains, with much sparring between Congress and the White House.
It will also mean more government shutdowns, more political gridlock, and ever fewer responses to the various and increasingly urgent crises facing our country.