Late last month, with just a few days remaining before the shutdown deadline, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) still hoped to avoid the crisis. However, House Republicans turned to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to offer them guidance -- and he urged House GOP lawmakers to ignore their own leaders and stick to his plan. House Republicans agreed and the government's lights went out four days later.
Last night, Washington found itself facing a similar dynamic. Once again, there's a compromise that could probably pass the House if it were brought to the floor for a vote; there's a House Speaker hoping to avoid a crisis; and there are radicalized House Republicans who don't realize they're playing a bad hand poorly.
And once again, four days before an important deadline, House GOP members turned to the junior senator from Texas.
Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.
The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.
Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raul R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.
It's almost as if there's a group of isolated soldiers who haven't been notified of a war's end -- and they're led by a general who keeps telling them to find enemies to kill.
Worse, House Republicans don't seem to realize that Cruz has offered them horrible advice. The GOP has seen its national support crater in recent weeks, and if House Republicans decimate the global economy on purpose in a few days, their popularity will deteriorate further.
But GOP House members' judgment appears to be so impaired, they can no longer tell the difference between wisdom and foolishness. Indeed, there are reports this morning that House Republicans don't care about the bipartisan compromise emerging from the Senate, and may push the nation into default anyway.