October’s government shutdown was said to have marked the rise of the Conservative caucus as a serious power-player in Washington. Despite lawmakers’ own desires to avoid the shutdown, the threat of conservative backlash during the 2014 primary season saw them all falling in line.
After the shutdown ended, a committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Mass.) was formed in order to work out a deal to avoid the “cycle of crisis” that was the status quo. Tuesday they presented a truly bipartisan bill that increased discretionary spending in the short-term while reducing mandatory spending in the long-term, and does away the sequester cuts in favor of more targeted spending reductions.
The resulting deal, however, seemed to fly in the face of the demands of the conservative caucus who has said (vaguely) that they would not vote to be rid of the sequester without “long-term budget reform.” In a piece for The National Review, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney said, “This bill is not designed to get our vote.” He added, “This bill is designed to pass with bipartisan support in the House,” as if that were an undesirable quality in a piece of legislation.
In a lengthy report from Talking Points Memo, the clash between Ryan and the conservative caucus is put into the context of building support for a Presidential run in 2016. This, one might argue, is what gives this particular battle relevance beyond simply passing a budget. Already the 113th Congress is the most ineffective when it comes to passing legislation in the history of the United States. So the move towards bipartisanship could be interpreted as both a rejection of that do-nothing attitude and, more importantly, the quickest rise-and-fall of power in the GOP.
The Tea Party furor that overtook the 2010 mid-term elections seemingly signaled a shift in the GOP (if “more of the same” qualifies as a shift). Yet after the GOP took most of the blame for the government shutdown, Republicans who hope to have a future are dialing back their allegiance to, for lack of a better term, this conservative purism. Ryan and other Republicans like him seemingly believe that the foundations for their future is best laid on the middle-ground rather than the fringe, where they might be washed away by changing tides.