Sunday, April 3, 2011

How much is too much: When House Republicans Succumb to Excessive Pressure on Budget Cuts Negotiations from the Tea Party Faction?

Keywords or Terms: Budget Negotiations; Republican Leadership; Party Discipline; Excessive Pressure; Tea Party Faction; Lawmaking; Dynamics of Party Politics

In the changing world of budget negotiations on Capitol Hill, a faction of the Republican Party is flexing its muscles, but leaders of the party are maintaining that the tea party lawmakers are hardly challenging their overall party’s discipline. How will Republican leaders account for the continuous challenge to already negotiated cuttings on the budget with Democratic Party leadership, from the newly swept into congress, tea party leaders? Can Republican leaders vow that they are not under threat or pressures from the Tea Party lawmakers among them? Can they dissuade the Tea party lawmakers from making out of line comments with respect to how deep cut budget line items must succumb to under the knife? Can Republic lawmakers guarantee that they will not be party to any ploy to balance the budget on the back of social programs designed as safety net for the poor and elderly? The blog today is exploring the current machination of the tea party faction to expand their leadership role within the Republican Party; and, answer the question: how much is too much?

The pressure from the tea party lawmakers on Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is close to overwhelming, even for some Republican leaders who share tacit support for the brand of demands on budget cuts from the tea party group. It isn’t only that the Tea Party faction is demanding more cuts in the budget line items, it is the fact that these new Republican lawmakers are increasing their profile; and subjecting the Republican leadership to a range of demands that astute and seasoned lawmakers on the hill, understand is close to political suicide.

Astute questions without much reflective listening seem to be the brand of the Tea Party faction in the house; and, this type of brand is difficult for achieving party cohesion or discipline. Republican Party leadership, who have pioneered some reflective changes in the budget cuts of the past, and have worked hard under a give and take arrangements with the Democratic Party leadership, are asking themselves: do these new tea party lawmakers understand what it takes to make a success of negotiations in passing a bill and ensuring that a bill makes it through senate and the office of the Presidency? Do these new lawmakers share the type of experiences and reflective thinking on the size of budget cuts that may make Democratic Party leaders on capitol reconsider their contemplated positions; or, are they merely seeking to be heard or seen as rattling the Republican Party leadership?

Actions of the Republican leadership in Congress in the coming weeks will determine their ability to maintain party discipline with the internal pressures from the Tea Party lawmakers. It is possible that the Republican leadership will allow this new group to overwhelm their sense of better judgment with respect to budget cuts negotiations with the Democrats. It is also possible that the Republican leadership will fight back and attempt to take the middle of the road stance in negotiations with respect to the size of cuts necessary and workable with the Democrats. The ability of Republican leadership to strike a balance between the internal pressures from the new tea party faction and the realities of negotiations on the floor of congress, will actually determine the future of the Republican Party's successes in passing bills that reflect its philosophy; and hopefully, reposition it for successes in the coming elections.

Republican leaders, who understand that leadership negotiations with Democrats on issues of budget cuts cannot just rely on avowed wishes of a few members seeking to be heard at all cost, without an appreciation for past experiences of managing the legislative process without a hitch, are dying to calm the agitation within the party down. A few insiders in congressional leadership and politics, Republicans and Democrats alike, are already talking things over with some of the Tea Party lawmakers. Some in the Republican leadership are already providing answers to inquiries from the Tea party faction; however, the question is: are these new members of congress listening? Do these lawmakers understand how challenges are met, negotiations completed and disaffection smoothen out to cradle legislation(s) to success?

It isn’t out of place to assume that some Republican Party leaders in congress are seeking a way out to achieve stability and party cohesion or discipline in the way their party negotiates with Democrats on size of budget cuts; and, are eagerly working to ensure that the government apparatus do not shut-down. The perceived destabilization of party discipline or leadership authority within the Republican echelon in congress requires actions and negotiated decisions that could bring the dissenting tea party lawmakers into the fold. However, if the Republican leadership fails to rain the tea party factions in at this early time, the Republican Party leadership should not be surprised if this new group hijacks the party from under their feet. Whenever there is a gathering of a group with a focus to bring about change, even without formality, it is best to assume that their energy can actually bring down the house; and in some cases, make a bad situation worse. What must be paramount on the minds of the Republican leadership in congress today, is how to channel the energies of the tea party members toward congressional negotiation strategies or leadership style that achieve successes in lawmaking, even when talking about budget cuts in areas as Social Security and Medicare Benefits.

Republican leadership has the opportunity to facilitate the type of changes sought by members of the Tea Party. However, they have to do this within the status-quo or leadership arrangement of the Republican Party in congress vis-a-vis the Democrat's. Tea Party members must be encouraged to inquire, reflect and learn from the imaginative experiences of Republican leadership in the budget cuts wars of the past in congress. They must be asked to support the course of the Republican Party leadership with all their issues resolved at the caucus levels before it gets blown over in congressional committees or floors while negotiating with Democrats.

It is not enough for Tea Party faction of the Republican Party to seek to kick against the tenth amendment, erode federal powers, and actualize the prominence of state’s rights, it is important to appreciate the leadership in congress, on both sides of the aisle, and understand how the dynamics work to the best interests of those who have mastered the art and science of legislation, especially in the difficult terrain of budget development and line items shrinkage. Given that political preferences of the tea party faction may seem radically aggressive, even within the Republican Party, it is imperative that the Republican leadership understand this brand of politics from those who are convicted in the thinking of this new right, and work with them, so that they do not subsume the Republican leadership in congress.

Given that negotiations on what aspects of the budget may be marginally or excessively pruned without doing much damage to government services, issues of concerns from all factions of congress may seem convenient, but are they expedient? Is it expedient to allow lawmakers and tea party members to demand cuts to implementation of the Affordable Health Care Reform Law of 2010, Women Programs that support their fertility, Health Start Program that gives a level playing field to all children, Medicare and Medicaid for the elderly and the terminally ill? Answers to these and more questions must be settled, if we are to provide solutions to the challenges of developing a national budget and making life a little bit tender for all in time of austerity. Republican leaders attempting to work with pressure groups in their party, must understand differences in opinions, strengths and needs of pressure groups, management of interactions between disparate interest groups, and developing negotiating skills necessary for achieving legislative successes. Anything less is a recipe for mutiny within the Republican Party, a situation no one wants.

Finally, an experienced and proficient congressional negotiator in legislative processes can anticipate some of the demands from the new pressure group in the Republican Party and may tap into them for resolving conflicts in-house; and, laying ground work for mutual understanding among all groups within the party. When new lawmakers with a preconceived agenda come to the table, their determined demands, no matter how relevant and timely they are, often muddle up or sets back the negotiation process. The tea party faction in the House of Representatives has put the Republican leadership in a situation where they have to work with diverse demands that may not necessarily be part of the overall demands or goal of the Republican leadership in both chambers of congress. It is important for the Republican leadership in the debate for developing a federal budget to appreciate when the demands of their intra-party dynamics are getting to be out of place or in the way; and or, when the pressure group(s) within the party are probably exceeding their boundaries.

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