On October 16, 2013, Congress passed legislation that ended the partial government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, at least for now. While the votes on the Democratic side were unanimous in favor of bigger government and more debt, there was more of a split on the Republican side.
In the House, the vote was 285-144. All 144 votes against the legislation were Republicans. On the Senate side, the total vote was 81-18, with all 18 votes coming from Republicans.
Breaking it down just in the Republican Party, in the House there were 87 votes in favor and 144 votes against. It was the so-called moderates in the House who allowed the legislation to pass.
In the Senate, 27 Republicans voted in favor and 18 against. So, in the Senate, there was a higher number of Republicans who voted to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown.
In other words, the House tends to be more reliable than the Senate in preserving liberty. Or I suppose it would be more accurate to say that the House is less bad than the Senate.
This shows a real split in the country. I think the politicians are somewhat reflective of their constituents, at least in terms of what people are willing to put up with. I don't think there are 144 principled members of the House or 18 principled members of the Senate. Many of these same people voted to raise the debt ceiling and voted for big budgets when there was a Republican president. For the newer members, I'm sure some of them would have voted for the legislation if we had a President Romney right now.
The good news is that the tide has shifted a little. Some of these politicians, who are considered part of the Tea Party, really are conservative, economically speaking, in comparison to what we have seen in the past. Most of them are not libertarian by any stretch of the imagination, but they do realize that many people are demanding less government and lower spending, and their rhetoric and actions are reflecting that sentiment.
I don't think the Republican Party is going to break up. I don't think it is done winning elections. I also don't think we will see any significant legislation pass in the near future that is a great benefit to liberty. I think there will continue to be a struggle between the two factions within the party.
The interesting test will come in 2016. I guess it will start in 2015 with the heavy campaigning for the primaries. I have no idea at this point who will be the Republican nominee for president. On the Democratic side, you can guess a few names such as Hillary and Joe Biden. Regardless, you know that the Democratic nominee will be a reflection of the status quo.
The Republican side will be far more interesting. It will be a fight between the Tea Party and the establishment. On the Tea Party side, there is Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. On the establishment side, there could be any number of potential candidates. I suppose there could be someone that is kind of in between, such as Rick Perry.
I am not saying that we should hold out great hope for a so-called Tea Party candidate. Rand Paul is the least bad of all of them and I have my criticisms of him. But the good news is that this is even a possibility. It's been a long time since Reagan, who placated conservatives. It has been an even longer time since Barry Goldwater.
Again, I won't have any high expectations of the Republican nominee, even if it is a Tea Party person. But I think it is a reflection of the stronger pro-liberty views that we have today. For that, we should be optimistic.