Political Animal


July 18, 2011 4:50 PM Club for Growth lays down the law

By Steve Benen

I suspect it’d be a little awkward trying to explain tomorrow’s developments in the House to Americans who don’t follow politics closely.

There’s a law they’ve probably never heard of that sets an arbitrary limit on the amount of debt the nation can accrue. Republicans have always wanted to raise this limit, until this year, when they decided raising the ceiling is an “existential” crisis. If they don’t do what they’ve always done within two weeks, the economy will crash.

Tomorrow, the same people threatening to crash the economy will spend all day on a competing plan they know will fail, but which will make Republicans feel better about themselves. They could spend the day preventing a crisis, but that won’t help Republicans feel better about themselves, and therefore, won’t happen.

And then, of course, there are the interest groups. On the one hand, we see Republican allies, desperate for GOP officials to create a friendly business climate, demanding they raise the debt ceiling. On the other, we see other Republican allies, also desperate for GOP officials to create a friendly business climate, demanding that they not raise the debt ceiling unless it’s in a way that ideologically pleasing.

“Cut, Cap, and Balance will fix our fiscal mess. The McConnell-Reid plan does not,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a statement accompanying an alert that these votes will be counted on the group’s scorecard. “McConnell-Reid simply punts our budget problem further down the road and is everything that’s wrong with Washington. Congress has proven that they are unable to balance the budget without reform. Cut, Cap and Balance is the only plan that permanently handcuffs politicians from spending more money than they take in.”

If you’re a Republican, voting for Plan B means you’re that much likelier to face a primary. By holding the test votes on Cut, Cap, and Balance, and the Balanced Budget Amendment, they can at least meet the Club for Growth, and similar groups half way.

Just for added fun, let’s not forget that when Club for Growth President Chris Chocola was in Congress he — you guessed it — voted to raise the debt ceiling without conditions.

The far-right group is led by a far-right politician who’s now urging other far-right politicians not to vote the same way he did.

And his demands are one of the reasons House Republicans will spend a great deal of precious time on a series of legislative stunts tomorrow, which everyone, including them, already knows will never become law.

Sometimes I wonder why most of the public doesn’t share my fascination with political current events. And other times, I can’t blame the public at all.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • T2 on July 18, 2011 5:04 PM:

    "doesn�t share my fascination" HA !!
    Ms.T2 refuses to discuss political things...she knows the GOP sucks, but will not enter into any "meaningful" discussion how how bad they really suck. And don't make the mistake of describing that stance as "head in the sand".....
    But I can't blame the public for being turned off. The Blame is on the Media who decided that when one Party sucks and the other at least tries, you have to lump them both into the same barrel, to be fair and balanced about it. You know "Congress Fails to Act" - when the GOP is rejecting compromises that feature their own ideas, etc. and holding the future of our nation hostage for the Rich People's tax breaks. But judging from recent polls, most of our neighbors are starting to see through that jive.

  • Chris on July 18, 2011 5:10 PM:

    With due respect to Steve, I do give the GOP credit for taking symbolic votes specifically to communicate to their base and to keep them motivated (even though they are frequently communicating misinformation).

    You see, the GOP doesn't have more supporters than Dems do. But they win when they have more voters than Dems do. With their grandstanding, Republican leaders convert their supporters into voters. Meanwhile, Dem voters are demoralized and stay home.

    In that regard, I give them props for taking votes that have no chance of success, and I believe that Dems should consider taking a page out of the Republican playbook.

    (Caveat: The Democratic-controlled House passed a tremendous amount of excellent legislation that sat idle in the Senate because of the filibuster, it's true. But its not enough to just pass legislation. You have to tell people about it, and ask them to elect more Dems to help it succeed. I didn't see that happening in 2010.)

  • Ron Byers on July 18, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Steve, Chris makes a good point, but right now the American people have looked at the current situation and have decided the Republican leadership has lost its collective mind. The party is in full self distruct mode. Frankly, I am bored with every twist and turn. There is no way out for the people who have sworn alliegence to the Club for Growth. They are simply screwed.

  • Anonymous on July 18, 2011 5:21 PM:

    Press Secretary Jay Carney calls the Republican Party cut, cap and balance plan -


  • exlibra on July 18, 2011 5:21 PM:

    Club For Growth... Growth? That's one tumor that has metastasized a long while back; I'm surprised that the patient is still alive.

    According to Craptcha, to solve our fnancial problems, it's not enough to close our National Parks; they have to be sold off, one sycamore at a time (ccomor sale,)

  • square1 on July 18, 2011 5:21 PM:

    @Chris: Inexplicably, Democrats suffer from a delusion that the worst fate that one can possibly suffer is to lose a vote. I'm not exactly sure where they get this idea. In a Democracy, "losing" a vote doesn't mean that you are wrong. It only means that you are in the minority.

    Of course the best way to go from the minority to the majority is to put up popular policies for a vote, lose, and then go into an election blaming the majority for frustrating your intentions.

    There are two basic mistakes that the Democrats made heading into the 2010 election. First, they failed to have more symbolic votes to excite the base and point to GOP obstructionism.

    Second, they generally claimed that the Democratic Congress had been massively successful and passed an "unprecedented". Since the public wasn't satisfied, the Democrats invited the voters to blame them. Instead, Democrats should have relentlessly blamed the GOP for frustrating their efforts to boost the economy.

  • Danp on July 18, 2011 5:24 PM:

    Tomorrow, the same people threatening to crash the economy will spend all day on a competing plan they know will fail

    It probably will pass the House, and Wolf Blitzer, et. al. will report that Congress passed a bill that prevents future deficits. In a few years, people will asked what happened to that.

  • Ron Byers on July 18, 2011 5:25 PM:

    We have a real strong handle on the Republcans. Question, what are the Democrats doing? Last I looked they still had a majority in the Senate, and the Whitehouse. Where do we go to find out?

  • delNorte on July 18, 2011 5:27 PM:

    Since they've now endorsed "Cut, Cap, and Balance," they really should be required to change their name to "Club for NO Growth," because that's surely what CCB would accomplish for America.

    (Though, I'm sure, the wealth of the wealthiest would continue to grow; so I guess we know who Club for Growth works for.)

  • Joe Friday on July 18, 2011 5:28 PM:

    Chocola: "Cut, Cap and Balance is the only plan that permanently handcuffs politicians from spending more money than they take in."

    He forgot to mention it locks in the massive tax cuts for the Rich & Corporate that created the massive federal deficits and debt.

  • st john on July 18, 2011 5:29 PM:

    I think that Fox News' connection to Rupert Murdoch needs to be trumpeted by every Dem with a spine. The phone-hacking of murdered children, dead veterans' families and corrupt politicians. Make the connection between every Republican who has either appeared on Fox or been financially supported by Fox/Murdoch/News Corp. Paint with the same broad brush as the R's do to discredit their opposition. The connection can be made quite directly. Murdoch is not an absentee owner who allows his employees to run with stories he does not directly approve, or that they know he would not approve. Follow the Brits' lead: they are conducting hearings in Parliament and their top police officals are running for the hills. This is major stuff and will test the integrity of the rest of the American MSM. Will this get front line exposure, or will we see more about Hollywood celebrities and their evil ways?

    Waiting for the tsunami of wall-to-wall coverage...or not.

  • T2 on July 18, 2011 5:41 PM:

    "they really should be required to change their name to "Club for NO Growth," because that's surely what CCB would accomplish for America."

    Cool delNorte ! Lets start a game......how about White Club for Growth, or Club for White Growth.

  • LB on July 18, 2011 7:16 PM:

    I'm not sure the time of the House is really all that precious. Almost nothing they can pass will pass Senate anyway. And there is no final deal yet. So if they want to do some PR votes, they have plenty of time for that.

  • Texas Aggie on July 18, 2011 8:33 PM:

    For a vision of what this Duck, Dodge and Dismantle (D, D, and D) will do to the US, look at what the same thing on a "local" basis has done to TX. TX isn't in the bottom five states for every measure of social well being from education to pollution to medical care to poverty for no reason. Goodhair and the same ethic as Club for Growth has been running the state into the ground since Bush was elected president with predictable results.

    If you want TX to happen to the whole country, vote for D, D, and D.

  • Rick B on July 18, 2011 10:03 PM:

    Tex Aggie, you are correct.

    And the so-called increase in the number of jobs in Texas has been entirely minimum wage jobs with no benefits, so that Texas has the highest percentage of population without health insurance of any state in the nation.

    Besides that, the job increase has been based on a sharp increase in gas drilling caused by the high prices of natural gas together with destructive fracking, particularly beneath cities. You guys know about fracking, of course. That's the process of pumping chemicals which are unreported as trade secrets and which the state government protects from publication.

  • MR Bill on July 19, 2011 10:30 AM:

    One of the Commenters at Cogitamusblog.com, Mandos, says "Club for Growth?

    I read it as an instruction, like a "kick me" sign."

    I think it's more like "the beatings will increase until morale improves".

    And it's the little guy getting clubbed.

  • JM(17 on July 19, 2011 11:56 AM:

    @ St John:

    Absolutely right! From now on till doomsday (and I don't mean just August 2), Democrats have got to take every opportunity to trumpet the formula "FOX = Murdoch." And "Wall Street Journal = Murdoch" as well.

    Give 'em hell!