The Problem with One Last Vote for a Flawed Strategy

House Republican Leadership is now telling the press that this is likely the last short-term continuing resolution. At his pen-and-pad today, Majority Leader Cantor said, “We hope and intend for this to be the last one…we hope that this is the last time this happens.”

But how can conservatives be so sure that this is not mere blind hope? After all, Cantor explained that there have been no negotiations with the Democrats so far. Now that is certainly not the fault of Republicans, since the Democrats’ chief negotiator—Vice President Biden—went to Europe on other matters, squandering the last two weeks of respite. But it does reveal that there has been no progress made whatsoever. Negotiators would be starting from scratch.

If this extension passes, negotiators will have another three weeks, but those discussions will continue to be characterized by Republicans’ fear of a government shutdown. Thus Democrats will still be able to stall until the CR expires and force another extension, pushing the debate more and more into the next budget cycle and the debt limit increase.

What is happening here is what people in leadership circles call a “member management problem.” The rank-and-file members are increasingly frustrated by these short term extensions. By hoping—without promising—that this is the last one, Leadership is trying to keep as many of their people in the fold on this vote while pushing any angst off into the future, knowing they can “manage” it then as well.

Conservatives in Congress need to recognize this dynamic and understand that there is no time like the present to stand up for what they believe and show the courage needed to jettison a strategy built on fear. If they do, they will end up doing their Leadership a favor.