It seems that the only thing the Bush Administration has been successful at has been dividing, and now the usually "unified" Republican Party is having an unusual divisive spat:
A deep rift in the Republican Party has left Congress unable to pass a budget this year, raising the probability that, for the third time in three decades, lawmakers will not agree on a detailed blueprint for government spending and tax policy.
The budget meltdown was triggered by a feud between conservative Republicans who favor continuing to cut taxes in the face of record budget deficits and GOP moderates who are pushing for curbs on tax cuts and are reluctant to slash spending. Even a face-saving effort in the House to impose federal spending curbs blew up just after midnight Friday when 72 Republicans joined a united Democratic Party to torpedo the leadership-backed bill.
Ryan and other House Republicans argued that the budget must be brought into balance by reining in the size of government. "The deficit is a symptom; spending is the disease," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.). "And we have to do something about the disease."
There are limits to the effectiveness of spending cuts. Even if Congress had eliminated every penny of the $438 billion in domestic discretionary spending this year, every education and health program, every homeland security effort, national park, interstate highway and federal prison, the government would still find itself in the red.
"When it comes to budgetary matters, we can't operate on ideological whims," Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said. "Numbers tell the truth."
Moreover, when the House was offered the opportunity to cut spending, the vote last week was not even close. A bill drafted by Hensarling to give the annual budget the force of law, clamp down on "emergency" spending bills, and require a "supermajority" in the House and Senate to exceed strict spending caps was crushed at 11:30 Thursday night, 326 to 88. A less sweeping measure establishing two years of strict spending caps and requiring entitlement spending increases to be offset by entitlement cuts lost 268 to 146.
Nice to see that the moderate Republicans have developed a backbone! I think that, in the coming years, the conservative wing of the Republican Party is going to go the way of the dodo. You can only ignore the present in favor of ideology for so long, before it comes back to bite you; and I think that the biggest irony is that Reagan's death may have hastened their demise. Rather than being seen as an ultraconservative champion, Reagan is now viewed as a neo-liberal fiscal conservative running in contrast to the current "mess" of the Bush II Administration (whether that view is accurate or not is up for debate; but in the postmodernist school of thought, perception is more influential than reality, and such romanticism over past political figures is a regular phenomenon). In other words, the GOP might start being slowly steered towards the libertarian end of the political spectrum.
Of course, much of this will depend on the November election; if Kerry gets into office, I think the demise of the conservative wing of the GOP might be more swift.