Nothing illustrates the deepening divide within the Republican Party like the term “RINO”- Republican-In-Name-Only. It is meant as a slight pejorative to describe the moderate wing of the GOP and while its usage has been somewhat subjective until recently, the term has found new meaning in the days since Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster provided a defined dividing line to separate Republican leaders and leaders who claim to be Republicans.
As the right battles the left, the center-right appears caught in the crossfire and unaware of where to turn. On Wednesday, as Paul spoke for nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor, several moderate Republicans joined Senator Lindsey Graham in a dinner with the president to discuss budgetary issues. The tension has been palpable ever since as several of these moderates have spoken out against Paul and other conservative members of Congress.
Now it appears that House Republicans are feeling the internal battle intensify as conservative members of the House last week broke with the Republican line on a procedural vote to illustrate their contempt for Republican leadership ruled by moderates.
“Sixteen Republicans defected Wednesday in a vote on the rule governing consideration of a government-funding bill meant to prevent a government shutdown…
Votes on rules are supposed to be party-line and serve as tests of a caucus’s unity. So it was disconcerting for leaders to see so many Republicans vote against the rule they had crafted.
Worse, from a leadership perspective, is that some Republicans say they plan on doing it again if they feel leaders are limiting them from offering controversial amendments on the floor.”
In response, the House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has threatened to retaliate by forcing through votes that do not have a majority favor in the Republican Caucus- a clear violation of the Hastert Rule that calls for Republican leadership only moving forward on bills that have majority support within the Republican Party.
“After undergoing that unpleasant shock, House leadership hasn’t responded by listening to the concerns of the more conservative members of its caucus. Instead, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said on Sunday that he would be open to ramming through bills without the support of a majority of his own Republican caucus. Not just on small bills. On issues like immigration and gun control, McCarthy said, he’d be open to taking rogue Republicans across the aisle to work with Democrats.
This is a declaration of war within the Republican ranks. And it should be deeply troubling to Republicans across the country, watching as the recently and controversially reminted House leadership continues to pursue the same political philosophy that led to a mini-rebellion in the House in January.”
The tensions continue to escalate at a time when the Republican Party needs unity. However, over the past four years, moderate Republican leadership has shown a poor track record of stopping or even slowing what many see as damaging liberal policies. One economic crisis after another has ended with tough talk but a poor showing on the part of Republican leadership headed by Speaker of the House John Boehner.
The Senate Republican leadership shows few signs of solidarity either. After calling Rand Paul’s filibuster “ridiculous,” Lindsey Graham defended his role in helping to organize the dinner with the president, saying,
“The president called Sen. McCain and myself a couple of weeks ago. I’m assuming the president wants to talk seriously about the issues of the day. And if he just wants to have a dinner so we can get to know each other better that’s fine with me. So how do you say no to the president, who would like to have dinner with some of your colleagues? You don’t.”
With the 2014 elections gearing up and the 2016 presidential election not too far away, the Republican Party must now decide in what direction it intends to head.