Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the GOP's political opportunist and demagogue du jour, has successfully taken the Republicans in Congress hostage. With the aid of his tea party accomplices in the House, the most dangerous Canadian in America is leading his congressional comrades on a reckless mission to stop Obamacare no matter what the cost.
The Cruz mission has two phases. The first came on Friday, when House Republicans sent a bill to the Senate that will shut down the government on Oct. 1 if the Affordable Care Act is not defunded. The second could come in mid-October, when they say they will refuse to lift the nation's debt ceiling unless Obamacare is delayed. That would render America incapable of paying its debts, which would drive the world economy off a cliff. This was not what Boehner or Republican "moderates" originally wanted to do.
The stunning thing about all of this is that many people never thought this drama would get this far, including Ted Cruz himself. Sure, he talks big. "I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare," he says. But that turns out not to be the case.
Cruz didn't have a plan for what would happen if the House actually gave him the fight in the Senate with the Democrats he's been begging for. That's not been the point of his "Defund Obamacare" campaign. He's running for the White House. He's focused on holding rallies, giving speeches and riling up his tea party base, not figuring out the endgame for a high stakes game of congressional chicken.
Not everyone in the House has taken well to Cruz's hostage-style leadership. Republican Rep. Peter King of New York called Cruz "a fraud" shortly before the House began debate on the temporary budget bill. "We can't be going off on these false missions that Ted Cruz wants us to go on," said King, who added that important issues "require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes."
King isn't the only critic. Several Senate Republicans think the defund gambit is a dumb idea and are saying so. Sen. John McCain told CNN that "we will not repeal or defund Obamacare" in the Senate. "We will not, and to think we can is not rational."
Even Republicans who support the idea of using the continuing resolution to defund Obamacare agree that the effort is futile, says Politico. "There isn't anybody that thinks that Obamacare is going to get defunded. It cannot happen," said Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho. "It is as impossible as anything can possibly be in Washington, D.C."
In the House, the Republicans who hate government and governing are willing to risk blowing up the rest of us up to get what they want in hopes of forcing the Democrats to blink and cave in to the extortion. "We can't be going off on these false missions that Ted Cruz wants us to go on. The issues are too important. They're too serious, they require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes," he said." But they won't.
The Democrats will not defund Obamacare. To them, the Affordable Care Act is not a political football, it's a law that ends the worst insurance company abuses like discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, saves seniors and other consumers billions in medical expenses and extends health coverage to 25 million people.
Despite how it looks right now, there is a solution to this mess in sight. In approving the continuing resolution tied to defunding Obamacare, John Boehner got rolled by the unhinged extremists. But he knows better. He started in the right place -- he should go back.
When people trash talk the speaker's leadership, "I just let that s--t roll off my back," Boehner said. He should keep that in mind and change course.
The speaker can stop this nonsense if he stands up to Ted Cruz and the hardliners in his caucus. He can end the Republican hostage crisis by refusing to let reckless Republicans hold America hostage to their zeal for destroying Obamacare. He'll be called a sell-out by the loud-mouthed Cruz minority, but that will just be political noise.
Boehner has an opportunity to transcend politics and do the right thing. He should take it.