February 17

DAN DEMERITT: Republican politics make positive developments in Maine, nation

Commentary

Twitter is an astounding communication platform that can be used expertly to advance instant and mass understanding. This paper’s Twitter feed and the feeds of many of its reporters are must-follows for those who want to stay up to speed on news important to Maine.

Twitter is also a horrific accident in the making for those who use it incorrectly. In an unfiltered instant, a person of standing can do great harm to his or her reputation with an ignorant utterance or an inappropriate photo shared with their followers.

In my view, those who post to inform or entertain are doing it right. If your tweet gets its message across in a subtle or clever way, you get style points.

So kudos and extra credit goes to @SenJohnMcCain, the 2008 Republcan nominee for president, who tweeted “Must Read” to his 1.86 million followers last week along with a link to a Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Minority Maker.”

The editorial took fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to task for forcing a procedural vote that could be used to “primary” incumbent Republican senators. Both the editorial and McCain are spot on with their annoyance with the first-term tea partyer.

Cruz continues to see brinksmanship as a path to his own prominence within a narrow wing of the Republican Party. Those, such as Cruz, who are all too happy to embrace extremism regardless of the electoral or economic consequences, could keep Republicans in the minority for elections to come.

Here is a quick summary of what happened.

Last October, a small but unrelenting block of Republican lawmakers refused to make concessions on spending packages that would keep the federal government operational. As a result, routine operations of the federal government were shut down for 16 days.

A similar impasse existed on the federal debt ceiling, but a deal ultimately was reached just hours before the government lost its ability to borrow money to meet its obligations. While a default was avoided, the uncertainty created by the standoff had an economic impact that could be measured in the billions of dollars.

The public blamed Republicans for both the shutdown and for bringing the federal government to the brink of default. Our party’s inability to lead and govern left many voters believing the GOP was simply too extreme to be trusted.

Shutdown politics and the fallout also took attention away from the challenges President Barack Obama was having with the rollout of his signature domestic policy achievement — the Affordable Care Act. The smoke and dust Republicans threw into the air digging their own political hole provided the president with cover as he struggled to get Obamacare off the ground..

Since October, Republican leaders in Washington have gotten the message and have a much more conciliatory approach to fiscal matters. Understanding their obligation to govern, especially in an election year, House Republicans passed a debt ceiling increase early last week without the drama we saw in October.

Not so in the U.S. Senate, where majority Democrats were poised to raise the debt ceiling on a party-line vote. Taking advantage of the chamber’s procedures, Cruz insisted on cloture vote that requires 60 votes to advance a measure. Given the partisan divide in the Senate, Cruz forced a handful of Republicans to side with Democrats on the cloture motion to avoid another default debacle.

The move provided political cover to Democrats who would have been solely responsible for enacting, by a majority vote, the debt ceiling increase in the Senate. It also forced Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas to vote in favor of a debt ceiling increase while confronting conservative primary challenges in their home states.

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