This past week, John Boehner, House Speaker, and 27 of his fellow Republicans fell on their swords to aid their party when they joined with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached and to block Tea Party threats to shut down the government again. The Senate then passed the legislation on a party-line vote, though enough Republicans, led by minority leader Mitch McConnell, voted to break the filibuster rule requirement of 60 votes. The GOP leaders realized the Tea Party must have been bitten by the amnesia bug to try to repeat their last fiasco and other failed strategies.
Last fall, Boehner let the Tea Party have their way and the GOP did shut down the government. The political backlash was so severe, Republicans even feared they would lose seats in the 2014 midterms and set up another Democratic win for the White House in 2016. The GOP was saved by the bungled roll out of Obamacare, charges the President’s ”lied” about keeping insurance, and a budget deal.
That Boehner’s action risked his speakership and Mitch McConnell gave fuel to Tea Party opponents in his upcoming primary shows the Tea Party has nearly completed their takeover of the Republican party. In Colorado, traditional business-oriented Republicans are only bystanders in a battle between the Tea Party Express and local ultra-conservatives to see who can endorse the most conservative candidate to take on Democrat Sen. Mark Udall in November. Similar battles elsewhere guarantee that Democratic candidates for state houses and Congress in blue and purple states will have an advantage in facing the most extreme opponents who will have problems pivoting to the center to appeal to moderate middles in the general election.
This year, the situation is different. The website works. As of Feb. 1, nearly 14 million are already covered by Obamacare (3.3 million through the exchanges; 7 million through Medicaid expansion and 3 million young adults on parents’ policies). An estimated 60 percent of the 5 million losing individual insurance have found other insurance policies or qualified for cheaper ones. By the 2014 midterms, the administration projects 6 million will have signed up through Obamacare exchanges. The Tea Party is still adamantly advocating total repeal and no replacement. All those benefiting by Nov. 2014 will not look kindly on candidates wanting to take away their newly acquired affordable insurance coverage.
The Tea Party’s domination of the GOP will also help Democrat’s chances of holding onto the Senate since key states with large Hispanic populations swung blue in 2012 by their disaffection with the GOP’s perceived hostility, Colorado included. Thanks to Tea Party fanatics in Congress, Boehner was forced to back down from any compromise or even a piecemeal approach to immigration reform this year.
The Tea Party continues to alienate unmarried women, a must-win voting block. Anti-choice platforms and insults continue, the latest by former Gov. Mike Huckabee who opined women wanted the pill because they could not keep their “libido” under control. The GOP ‘s repeal of Obamacare would eliminate Obamacare standards prohibiting higher premiums for women, and covering mammograms and birth control sans co-pays. Since women comprise much of the minimum wage workforce, GOP opposition to raising it is one more turnoff.
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