The feeling inside the
Republicans in Washington have at least one thing in common, however: Even if they weren't spooked by warnings of economic calamity, they were all sobered by polls suggesting a majority of voters blamed the GOP for the crisis. And that could give the Republican leaders who internally warned against a shutdown more leverage over their members than they have had for months.
Here's how they should take advantage of this otherwise grim moment and begin recovering from a serious strategic error.
The first step is the most basic and most urgent: to prove to the country that Republicans are capable of governing. Obama would like very much to sign a comprehensive
There is plenty of other important business to attend to, however. Topping the list is the so-called farm bill — a grab bag of agricultural support programs that hung fire last summer because of the tea party's insistence on steeper cuts to
With a good farm bill, Republicans have a chance to show the country they are serious about government reform — if they can muster the courage of their convictions. To do so, the party must demonstrate that it is as serious about weaning agribusiness off federal subsidies as it as about controlling spending on the needy.
Also on Republicans' radar are bills to overhaul federal transportation and water infrastructure programs. These aren't headline grabbers, but they are an opportunity to demonstrate that the party can function legislatively.
After the "
Can lawmakers reach some kind of detente on long-term taxes and spending or, more immediately, on the question of replacing the automatic spending cuts stipulated by 2011's budget
Whether or not a bargain of any significance is struck on the budget, the two parties will remain deeply divided on
But conservatives should keep their "I told you so" schadenfreude in check. Technological farce in this case shouldn't trump personal tragedy: Hundreds of thousands of people are trying and failing to gain a foothold in the health insurance marketplace. This is not a fate that conservatives should openly root for.
That's why it's imperative that Republicans introduce a serious conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act, one that offers refundable tax credits to individuals who don't have access to health insurance through their jobs and that adequately funds high-risk insurance pools. This will cost more money than Republicans have hitherto been willing to spend, but it's a bargain compared to Obamacare's escalating price tag.
The overarching task for Republicans is to lower their profile and do the job they're paid to do. Come November 2014, they can only hope a majority of voters believes they can govern constructively, not merely resist destructively.