Shutdown: Eric Cantor’s wheelbarrow full of frogs

ODD DOMINION

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Eric Cantor. Photo: James Berglie/ZUMAPRESS. Eric Cantor. Photo: James Berglie/ZUMAPRESS.
Dan Catalano’s political opinion column, Odd Dominion, runs every other week in C-Ville. Sometimes that means he has to write ahead of the news cycle, as was the case with this week’s column. A few days ago, it was anyone’s guess what the stroke of midnight last night would bring. Sorry, Dan—the news ain’t good.
As has been oft-noted here at Odd Dominion HQ, we sure do envy you future readers. You know all sorts of stuff—stuff that is not available to us poor wretches on the other side of the deadline divide. For instance, you know at this very moment—as you read this!—whether or not the government is still fully funded and functioning. We do not. You know the exact level of lunacy that transpired in the U.S. House of Representatives as the debate over meeting the United States’ financial obligations entered its final hours. We can only sit here and imagine the fun.
Now usually we’d just make a prediction and be done with it, but this is a rare situation in which we truly have no idea how the whole thing is going to shake out. If we had to bet on it, we’d guess that Speaker of the House John Boehner cobbled together a face-saving compromise at the last minute and passed a budget-sustaining continuing resolution with a majority of Democratic votes. But that is in no way a given. As ex-Ohio Representative Steve LaTourette colorfully put it on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” trying to manage the current House Republican conference is like trying to steer a “wheelbarrow of frogs”—no matter what you do, somebody’s going to jump out.
As you may or may not know, one of the people responsible for corralling those votes is Virginia’s own Eric Cantor, the lantern-jawed Representative of Virginia’s 7th district, and the current House Majority Leader. As Boehner’s ostensible right-hand man and former House Minority Whip (where his entire job involved counting votes), you’d think that Cantor would have some control over this situation. But—as has become readily apparent over the past few weeks—he most certainly does not.
The current problem arose out of Cantor’s awkward and transparently phony bid to be the voice of the Tea Party caucus after the 2010 congressional elections, which swept a huge wave of anti-government conservatives into the House. His overtures to the Tea Party were never reciprocated, but Cantor continues to champion the House anarchists in the vain hope (we imagine) that he might actually get elected speaker if Boehner falls.
But a close reading of Cantor’s smug-yet-grim smile as he exited the recent House vote on the budget (which stripped funding for Obamacare, a strategy that has zero chance of succeeding) seemed to reveal a man who has lost control of the wheelbarrow altogether, and is now trying desperately to avoid the dozens of amphibians wriggling at his feet.
This is why we imagine that, in the end, Boehner gave up on the crazy caucus (and, by extension, Eric Cantor) and cut a deal with Democrats to keep the lights on in the capital. But you know what? We don’t know! And it’s killing us!
For all we know, you are currently reading this by candlelight, listening to the muffled cacophony of a complete societal breakdown raging on the other side of your locked basement door. And somewhere out there, Eric Cantor is currently warming his hands over a bonfire of burning Obamacare amendments, celebrating his new status as king of the congressional lunatics’ asylum.
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