Peter Suderman on Edge Politics Versus Center Politics


Last week, the House faced a momentary crisis as it attempted to pass a $1.1 spending bill—the "cromnibus," which combined 11 appropriations bills with a continuing resolution. Conservative Republicans objected because the spending bill did not stop President Obama's executive action on immigration; liberal Democrats, urged on by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opposed a tweak to derivatives regulation in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

White House support for the bill helped overcome last-minute Democratic objections, and the Republican leadership attempted to quell dissatisfaction on the right. The bill passed in the House, and moved on to the Senate, where it was backed by the Democratic leadership. Over the weekend, it passed, but not before first losing a chunk of Democratic support over the financial reform, and then facing an unexpected procedural delay from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who forced a vote signaling opposition to Obama's immigration move before allowing the spending bill to pass.

In the end 21 Senate Democrats and 18 Republicans joined together in opposition to the bill. The Democratic objectors were among the party's most liberal members; the Republicans some of the GOP's most conservative. And yet, despite their different objections, they were, in some sense working together—to defeat the bill and the wishes of the leadership of their own parties.

For years, writes Senior Editor Peter Suderman, we have heard about increasing polarization in American politics and the growing divide between the left and the right. But the spending bill vote reveals another battle emerging—not the left versus the right, but the edge versus the center.