Government shutdown: how the GOP descended into civil war

The GOP wants to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 by passing a temporary government funding bill that would not include any money for Mr. Obama's health-care reform law. Here is a comprehensive primer on how we got here and who's involved.

3. Get to know your 'anarchists'

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Republican Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina (c.) and Tom Graves of Georgia (r.) discuss their goal of defunding the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday.

So, who are these “anarchists,” as Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada has taken to describing them? Where do they come from? And what do they want?

Conventional wisdom has it that the insurgents come mainly from the class of 2010 or 2012, many elected with tea party backing. They are typically new to the ways of Washington, fearful of a primary challenge on their right, disinclined to compromise principles, and driven by a fixed purpose to destroy Obama’s signature health-care reform before Americans come to depend on its benefits and the “big government” that provides them.

In fact, it’s a more diverse picture. There are big tea party personalities, but, so far, no House tea party leaders, with the possible exception of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, who played a major role in pushing House Republicans to force a high-stakes vote on Obamacare.

Here’s what’s known: Nearly half (103) of the 233-member House Republicans caucus have served three years or less, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. For about half of these newcomers, their House seat was their first elected office. Some 41 Republicans, or about 18 percent of the caucus, have consistently voted against leadership, Bloomberg concludes.

But the big, anti-establishment votes that rattled GOP leaders this year, including the current bid to defund Obamacare, drew from a much wider pool of GOP dissent: 62 Republicans handed GOP leadership a surprise defeat on the farm bill on June 20. Ninety-four Republicans joined with 111 liberal Democrats to support an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash (R) of Michigan to rein in National Security Agency phone record collection.

In July, freshman Senator Cruz, a likely GOP presidential hopeful in 2016, and two-term Rep. Tom Graves (R) of Georgia proposed a bill to continue government funding into a new fiscal year on condition that Obamacare receive nothing. 

The last two classes of GOP freshmen won their seats on a pledge to defund Obamacare. With open enrollment for online insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act set to start on Oct. 1, they say that time is running out to block it. Some add: If Republicans are not willing to take a stand on this issue, then what would they ever take a stand on?

By the time Boehner walked into the Wednesday morning caucus meeting, the Cruz-Graves measure had picked up 178 GOP supporters in the House, driving down support for the leadership’s less-risky alternative.

“A win today for the American people,” said Representative Graves in a tweet to followers after the announcement. “House GOP will put the #DefundObamacare Act in a bill to keep the gov't open.”

“If we just wait around and are afraid of the polls, then we’re not leading,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho, at a live-streamed event Thursday with “free market and liberty-minded members of Congress,” a monthly event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.

“I heard for two years that if we didn’t fight on all these ideas, we were going to win the presidency and win the Senate, and [they] were wrong,” he added.

Responding to criticism that they are dividing GOP ranks and undermining leadership, libertarian-leaning lawmakers say Republicans have never been as united and that Friday’s vote could be unanimous on the Republican side.

“Republicans are more united than at any time since I’ve been in Congress, and Democrats are more divided,” says freshman Rep. Thomas Massie (R) of Kentucky at Thursday’s Heritage Foundation event.

3 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.