Monday night's bicameral back and forth between the House GOP and the Senate ended in the way everyone saw coming: a shutdown of the federal government, owing to the House Republicans' refusal to simply send the Senate the "clean" continuing resolution that everyone knew would have ended the futile contretemps right then and there. As that didn't happen, reporters instead got to watch House Republicans smack a tennis ball into a brick wall, over and over again until everyone just hung it up for the night.
But there was a brief moment where everything threatened to actually get interesting.
I speak, of course, of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who is what passes for a "moderate" House Republican in this day and age. Days ago, King criticized the legislative meanderings of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and called Cruz a "fraud," which ensured that King's office would spend the rest of the day fielding calls from Cruz's fanbase. Their comments featured "vile, profane, obscene language," the likes of which King had never heard, and we remind you that he represents part of Long Island.
As a result, King went on "Morning Joe" and told their Zoo Crew, “I’m not saying Ted Cruz is responsible for all his supporters, but he has tapped into a dark strain here in the American political psyche here, and again, the most obscene, profane stuff you can imagine all from people who say they support the Constitution."
So King was primed to be one of those "mad as hell/not gonna take it anymore" types as Monday's deliberations began, and as the sun set in the west, it looked for all the world like he was going to finally foment a revolt. As the National Review's Jonathan Strong reported Monday evening, "Republican moderates have apparently had enough." King wanted a "clean" continuing resolution, and he was going to damn well keep the rest of the GOP caucus from adding rules to the bill by leading a gang of moderate Republicans into the breach:
In what is by far their boldest stand since the GOP took control of the House in 2010, a group of them are threatening to bring down a vote on the rule for the government-funding bill scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
New York representative Peter King is leading the charge, and his fellow New Yorker [Representative] Michael Grimm is close behind him. The group told leadership on Saturday they have 25 members who are willing to bring down the rule.
This was a significant rump, taking this "boldest stand."
As Politico reported, "If no Democrats vote for the rule, [Speaker of the House John] Boehner can only lose 17 Republicans to sink the plan." And so, the battle was joined, and as night fell across the District of Columbia, everyone who wanted the insanity to end turned their hopeful eyes to the vote count in the House. Would King bring 25 votes against dirtying up the continuing resolution?
As it turns out, King overestimated the number in his band of brothers by... you know, about 23 people:
The size of a bloc of GOP moderates ready to bring down a vote on the House floor over the government-funding bill shriveled from 25 lawmakers on Saturday to just two when the House voted just now to pass the rule.
New York representative Peter King and Pennsylvania representative Charlie Dent, two key moderates, voted no, while four hardline conservatives, including Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, voted no because the bill didn’t draw a hard enough line against Obamacare.
Well done, lads. Ha, ha, remember that whole "fellow New Yorker Michael Grimm is close behind him" part? That was really neat.
There's not a whole lot to say about a plan that nobody should have believed was going to come to fruition anyway. But it's worth pointing out that when the political media holds forth on the ideological landscape of Congress, and games out what they believe is possible in terms of bargains and compromises, just about everything in their conceptual framework is premised on the notion that a lot of moderate Republicans exist, and that the resting state of Capitol Hill is "center-right."
As it turns out, all of those premises are wrong. There aren't a lot of "moderate Republicans" in Congress. And those who exist are very timid and nearly useless when the chips are down. The government is shut down right now, but the notion that "moderate Republicans" were capable of steering a debate somewhere sensible went by the boards a long time ago.
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This story appears in Issue 69 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Oct. 4 in the iTunes App store.