WASHINGTON: Weakened and divided after a bruising budget standoff and two-week government shutdown, Republicans bickered yesterday over who to blame for the resulting damage to their party brand.
The party suffered a major hit in the polls after the crisis, with more Americans blaming Republicans than Democrats or President Barack Obama for the shutdown.
Asked about the lasting impact on Republicans, a dour Senator Lindsey Graham told CBS television that it is a time of “soul-searching” within his party.
“It’s a wake-up call,” Graham told CBS television’s Face the Nation programme, adding that his party’s self-inflicted woes have played into the hands of Obama and congressional Democrats.
“I think we’ve learned this was a political gift to the president by the Republican party at a time he needed it the most,” said Graham, a longtime party elder.
“As a party we have to do soul-searching,” Graham said.
Republican leaders acknowledged yesterday that they were still assessing how to recover from the debacle that saw the party acquiesce to Obama and his allies, with little to show for it.
The standoff was precipitated in large part by Republican opposition to the president’s signature health reform programme, dubbed Obamacare by its opponents, that went forward even in the midst of the shutdown, although the rollout has generally been viewed as somewhat rocky. Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell yesterday decried burn-the-house-down tactics employed by the Tea Party, which spearheaded a shutdown he said has proved antithetical to Republicans’ cause.
“Shutting down the government, in my view, is not conservative policy,” McConnell told CBS’s Face the Nation programme.
“A number of us were saying in July that this strategy could not and would not work — and of course it didn’t. So there will not be another government shutdown. You can count on that.”
Another party Brahmin, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, told ABC that the Tea Party-led shutdown set the party back.