Finally adding some sense of order to the shutdown debate, reality-TV-star-turned-Congressman Sean Duffy weighed in on the no-Obamacare-or-the-government-gets-it fight Friday morning on Morning Joe, railing that the House has been "the punching bag and bullied by some of these Senate conservatives." Duffy, who was on The Real World in the late '90s, provides a nice reference point: a bunch of people crammed together in one building that don't like each other and are always aware that there's a camera a short walk away try to sort out a dispute that they themselves created mostly because they like drama. Will the Congress fund the government before the episode ends on September 30? Stay tuned!
Duffy, elected in 2011, complained that the House was going "give Ted Cruz and others what he wanted," only to be stung, a few hours later, by Cruz's press release saying he wouldn't filibuster the funding bill over Obamacare. Cruz has emerged (to his glee) as the locus of energy around the battle over the budget. The Texas senator spent the summer insisting that the GOP could force President Obama to sign a repeal Obamacare if it refused to pass a budget. Proving the power of persistence, Cruz managed to rile up the party's base enough that House leaders were forced into a position where they had no choice but to embrace the idea. So on Friday, the House will vote for a resolution funding the government except the health care law, and then the Senate will take out that exception and then the House has to figure out what it will do.
Many Republican members of the House aren't happy about how this has gone down, including those who made their names on manufactured entertainment chaos. Business Insider relays Duffy's comments, which echo others from his peers in recent days: "You should have been on the floor back in the cloak room. There was so much anger, so much frustration. Because, again, we've been abused by these guys for so long. What I see happening now is people coming out and calling them out for the hypocrisy of these big, tough conservatives who know how to fight but will never get in the ring."
Cruz didn't help things, of course, when his response to the House vote was not, at first, "OK, I will win this in the Senate, which is harder," but instead, "Well, Majority Leader Reid will kill this so keep up the fight, House!" (Those are paraphrases, but roughly.) On Thursday afternoon, Cruz changed his tone, saying he'd do everything in his power to pass a funding resolution with no Obamacare provisions. But as he and everyone else knows, it doesn't really matter: he can't do much. But at least he'll pretend to fight, Rep. Duffy. If that's any consolation.
House GOP leaders, also obviously annoyed by Cruz, have a different strategy: blaming Cruz. Asked his thoughts on Fox News, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was clear: "Sen. Cruz, Sen. [Mike] Lee, Sen. [Marco] Rubio have said that they’re going to do everything and anything that they can to stop Obamacare. I support them in their efforts to do so." In other words, this is not my fight, this is their fight. Which is broadly true, since Cantor won't have a fight on his hands.
And it's also why the entire thing is so aggravating to everyone involved. The House is run by Republicans. The Senate is run by Democrats. The president is a Democrat. So in order for anything to be finalized, it requires agreement from both parties, as it always has. Some on the left are getting nervous that the president will give more up in a compromise deal than he needs to, as he has a habit of doing. But this time is slightly different, given the chaos in which the Republicans on Capitol Hill find themselves. (Democrats aren't sad about that chaos. Politico talked to Nancy Pelosi: "After 26 years in the House, she says, 'I haven't seen anything like it. I haven’t seen anything like it.'")
With 10 days left before the government is no longer allowed to function, Friday will be spent passing a bill meant to placate the conservative base by starting an unwinnable fight. Then we'll burn some more time while we work through the to-be-determined response. It's just drama for drama's sake, as though a cast member on a reality show hid all the credit cards used to buy groceries until the network changed the name of the program. It's not going to work, and it's just going to make everyone suffer in the interim. But it's definitely good TV.