David Brooks: GOP Leadership Will Have To Show Ted Cruz "Who's Boss"

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JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS: So, just nine days until the start of the fiscal rear, David, the Republicans in the House have thrown down the gauntlet. They're not going to fund the government for the coming year, they say, unless the president's health care plan is zeroed out. Where is it headed?

DAVID BROOKS: I'm Mr. Pollyanna on this. I think we're -- it will be fine.

I think what happened, there was a minority of House Republicans who upset the majority, upset the leadership. They wanted to have this big thing, we're going to defund Obamacare, or else shut we're going to down the government. The leaders didn't really want to do this. They thought it was a dead end or, as they're now calling it, a box canyon, which is the metaphor of the week.

And -- so, but they have got these people. They are going to give them what they want, from pressure from the right. So they give them what they want. They pass this thing, no funding for Obamacare. It's going to die in the Senate. And then I think they are going to come back or either fudge or cave in. And I suspect we will not be shutting down the government.

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, given that, who is calling the shots in the Republican Party? Who is in charge in the House of Representatives?

DAVID BROOKS: Apparently, Senator Ted Cruz is in charge of the House...

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: ... and with these 43 or some-odd couple dozen more Tea Party Republicans.

Mostly, there are a couple things going on. First, the people on the far right -- well, we will call it the far right -- have just the media behind them. They have got a lot of momentum behind them. And nobody really wants to anger them. And it's just easier to placate if you are leadership than it is to really take them on.

I think that's probably a wrong strategy long-term. At some point, you have got to a showdown probably with the Ted Cruzes of the world if you are in leadership. At some point, if are you in leadership -- and, believe me, the Republican leaders detest him. He's really unpopular. And at some point, they think he will burn out. Maybe that's true.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That's Cruz.

DAVID BROOKS: That's Cruz -- because they want to impose some party structure. They want the leaders of the party to lead a party. They believe politics is a team sport.

A lot of these Republicans like Cruz and like some in the House and like Jim DeMint, who is a former senator now at the Heritage Foundation, they are doing very well for themselves by running against the Republican Party. They can raise a lot of money. They can build their national stature, potential presidential options.

But it's very bad for the leadership. And so, eventually, I think they are going to have to have a confrontation and they're going to have show who's boss somehow.

E.J. DIONNE: You know, I think the answer to your question when you ask who is the leader of the Republican Party, right now, there is really no leadership.

And I was talking to a conservative today who made a really interesting point. A lot of Republicans aren't necessarily worried that they will lose a primary to a Tea Party candidate. What they are worried about is having the primary in the first place, having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, face a lot of negative ads.

And so a lot of Republicans are just reluctant to cross the right, even when they are not inclined to agree with them. And that sort of really makes John Boehner's job very difficult. And Boehner himself is worried about crossing them because he's worried about losing his leadership.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But David is saying that the leadership needs to confront the Tea Party.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I mean, I could make the alternative case, just let it sort of play itself out. But, you know, that's a dangerous game.

And the problem the leadership has, what exactly is their leverage over these people, whether you are leadership in the House or leadership -- they really are fervent believers. They have total conviction in their cause. They're not afraid of being denied committee assignments. And, crucially -- and this really has affected Capitol Hill in terrible ways -- when we got rid of earmarks, we got rid of the power leaders have over their own members.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And so getting rid of the earmarks, the little special interest spending legislation, was very bad for Washington.

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