I am not talking about poll numbers. I am not talking about the Republicans’ record unpopularity. I am not talking about declining support for the tea party. I am not even talking about election results.
I am focusing on the following numbers: 85, 49, 87 and 87 again.
Those are not Powerball numbers ... well, in a sense maybe they are!
What are they? These are the "YES" votes from Republican members of the House of Representatives on four pieces of legislation that Speaker John Boehner brought to the floor of the House, ignoring the Hastert rule. That, of course, is the rather absurd self-imposed rule that says you shouldn’t bring up a bill if it does not have majority support from your caucus.
Here are the bills:
Combined with nearly unanimous support from Democrats, all these bills passed.
Now, that meant that 151 votes, 179 votes, 138 votes and 144 votes were cast against these four bills, respectively, by Republican House members.
The point here is that the problem with Republicans is not just several dozen Tea Party activists – it is a caucus that won’t truly stand up to those extreme elements of the party. Too much attention is being paid to the gladiator TV hard core "stars" of the Republican Party such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and Reps. Raul Labrador, Michele Bachmann, Steve King and a handful of others.
They have somehow convinced the House Republican caucus that the best way to take on Obama and the Democrats is scorched earth.
The real question now is whether the pragmatic, reasoned, responsible gene present in many Republican House members will assert itself. Will they negotiate bills on fiscal matters, immigration reform, entitlements and taxes that lead to progress? Or will they let the tea party members role them over and over again?
The hope for many is that this horrendous shutdown and brinkmanship may have taken many members to the edge – they see the absurdity and suicidal nature of the action – and they are ready to stand up to the extremists within their own party. When we start seeing the numbers switch and more than 100 Republican members begin to accept reasonable legislation then we will know that they are no longer going to kow-tow to the Tea Party. We can all hope for that day.