Wingnut Watch: Jim DeMint’s Filibuster, T-Paw and Bachmann’s Catfight.

By / 7.27.2011

Like most politically active Americans, the residents of Wingnut World are heavily focused on the debt limit negotiations. Unlike many politically active Americans, hard-core conservatives by and large are just fine with a failure to reach any agreement. In some cases, it’s because they don’t buy the idea that failure to raise the debt limit will cause a default on federal government obligations. The “Full Faith and Credit Act”, introduced some time back by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Club for Growth) and backed by most Tea Party groups, is designed to bolster that case by directing the Treasury to pay creditors, the armed services, and Social Security recipients first if the debt limit is reached (this approach, of dubious legality, would virtually guarantee a major shutdown of unprotected federal programs).

Then there are those conservatives who don’t necessarily dispute that a debt limit increase is necessary to avoid a default, or that a default would produce economic havoc, but nonetheless argue that cutting federal spending, taxes and debt is more important (economically and morally) in the long run. Thus, they are adamantly opposed to any deal that doesn’t meet the politically impossible “Cut, Cap and Balance” template. This is the official position of the 183 conservative organizations, including those that have signed onto the “Cut, Cap and Balance” Pledge, along with nine presidential candidates (ten if you count likely candidate Rick Perry), 12 senators and 39 House Members. There is no deal anywhere in the works that these folks can support without subjecting themselves to charges of hypocrisy and betrayal. And the senators among them—including wingnut Big Dog Jim DeMint—have regularly threatened a filibuster against any deal they don’t like, which would produce highly dangerous delays even if it is not backed by sufficient votes to thwart the majority.

Outside this circle of solemn oaths to wreck the national economy if it’s necessary to pursue their ideological agenda, conservatives vary in what they might consider acceptable, with some focused on the precise extent of the concessions that might be wrung from the administration and congressional Democrats, and some standing with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in making political point-scoring against the administration the top priority. Virtually no conservatives have conceded the possibility of a deal including revenue measures that aren’t pared with tax rate cuts. And on top of everything else, profound institutional rivalries between House and Senate Republicans that have already become a problem in coordinating GOP strategy will make expeditious final action difficult. It’s going to be a very long week.

Meanwhile, on the presidential campaign trail, the rivalry between those Minnesota twins, Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, has been heating up. T-Paw has recently taken several shots at Bachmann’s record in Congress—and lack of executive experience—along with making what looked to be a thinly veiled reference to her medical condition as a possible problem (he later flatly stated he had never seen Bachmann suffer from any incapacity in fulfilling her duties). Bachmann fired back harshly with a denunciation of Pawlenty’s earlier positions on health reform, climate change, and TARP, suggesting he had a lot in common with Barack Obama.

The knife-fight reflects the fact that Pawlenty is fighting for his political life in Iowa, and can ill afford to lose badly to Bachmann at the August 13 Iowa GOP Straw Poll. But both Minnesotans are increasingly laboring under the tall shadow of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is reportedly 99% sure to announce a candidacy next month. Already in the double-digits in national and some state polls (a statute that poor T-Paw has yet to reach after months of campaigning), Perry probably benefitted from the decision of the Iowa GOP to keep him off the Straw Poll ballot, which means he doesn’t have to rush his announcement and won’t suffer from a poor showing in Ames. But Perry also courted controversy on the Right the other day by expressing indifference to New York’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage on states’ rights grounds:

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, Colo. “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

This comment immediately attracted criticism from Christian Right leaders, including Gary Bauer and Iowa kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats, who don’t think their “marriage is between a man and a woman” stance is a matter of state preference any more than individual preference. Perry’s stance, and the casual attitude he conveyed in talking about it, could give Bachmann fresh traction in her struggle to compete with the Texan for Christian Right support.