As Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent 21 hours reading bedtime stories and perfecting his Darth Vader impression on the Senate floor this week in a bid to defund Obamacare, he was aided only by a handful of Tea Party buddies. Usually, when the Tea Party calls, even mainstream Republicans answer. This time, they stayed away. Yes, the stunt made the firebrand Cruz a hero among grass-roots conservatives, but others in his party lined up to pin blame on the Texas Republican should the government shut down on Oct. 1. Those who’ve long despaired over the Republican Party’s capture by its most extreme wing couldn’t help but hope: Could this mark the beginning of the end of the brinksmanship that’s plagued D.C. in recent years? In other words, could some semblance of political sanity be returning to Congress?
It’s still hard to tell. As of Friday afternoon, the Republican leadership seemed powerless to rein in the demands of its most conservative members, who would rather shut down the government or — even worse — force a default in the government’s bond payments to bring an end to Obamacare. Such moves would be disastrous for the country, and ruinous for the Republican Party. Put aside, for a moment, the hope for a half-a-loaf compromise with Democrats. The people driving this government hostage-taking aren’t looking for half a loaf, and their tactics can’t be rewarded. Even the Republican leadership seems to realize this. The only question is whether their decision to walk away from Cruz will give them the strength to walk away from the threat of a government shutdown.