The GOP, like in the famous Carlo Goldoni comedy, is finding it hard to serve two masters; however, it’s unlikely that all will be forgiven in the end, as it was in the play.
We’re used to Democrat-versus-Republican battles in U.S. politics, but this is a Republican-versus-Republican battle. The radical right is composed of two masters who are clamoring for attention in the debt-ceiling debate: the Tea Party and Wall Street.
The masters have decidedly different interests.
The Tea Party wants smaller government at all costs. This faction believes that the debt ceiling cannot be raised–period. And some think that it should actually be lowered. They are also uncompromising on social issues, standing firm against gay rights, abortion, and any limitations to the Second Amendment. The Tea Party thinks that all taxes are potentially evil, but many are not against the concept of having the rich and corporations pay their share as long as government gets smaller in the process.
For Wall Street interests, it’s all about the money. They want the markets to be protected at all costs and insist that corporate taxes and personal taxes for the rich not be raised, including not being allowed to return to Clinton-era levels. Even tax loopholes for large corporations cannot be closed, and any regulations of financial markets must be loosened. Social issues are of no concern.
The Tea Party faction seems to believe that the debt ceiling represents a future budget, not expenditures already approved that need to be paid in order for the country to be a good global citizen.
The Wall Street faction understands that the debt ceiling needs to be raised in order to protect the reputation of the U.S. financial markets, thereby protecting their huge financial interests. Since the battle to not have revenues attached to any debt deal has seemingly already been won, they simply want the debt ceiling to be raised.
The Wall Street faction is more vocal in the Senate than in the House, represented by the fact that earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called raising the debt limit without any expenditure cuts to be a “last choice option.” The Senate is seemingly open to a no-strings-attached debt-ceiling vote, the type that has been the historical norm.
The Tea Party faction is more vocal in the House than in the Senate. They are so uncompromising about smaller government that they forced House Leader John Boehner to take a hard right turn in getting his most recent bill passed in the House, attaching a demand for a Balanced Budget Amendment. The bill was immediately defeated in the Senate.
That’s a difficult way to get a deal done–move away from a compromise with the opposite party and in a direction that doesn’t even serve the interests of the rest of your own party.
Watching the Republicans try to serve two masters might make for a good political comedy, but it could turn into a national tragedy.