The Republicans in the Senate are a bunch of cowards if you ask Joe Biden. In a fundraiser for Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Ed Markey yesterday, Biden accused GOP senators of acquiescing to conservative ideas because they're scared of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz:
Have you ever seen a time when two freshman senators are able to cower the bulk of the Republican Party in the Senate? That is not hyperbole. On the gun issue, I don’t care what your position is - I called 17 senators out, nine of whom were Republicans. Not one of (them) offered an explanation on the merits of why they couldn’t vote for the background check. But almost to a person, they said, ‘I don’t want to take on Ted Cruz. I don’t want to take on Rand Paul. They’ll be in my district.’
To Biden, the idea that Republicans would listen to Paul and Cruz is outrageous. “I actually said, ‘Are you kidding? These are two freshmen,’” Biden said.
Biden is being his usual crazy self, but the implications behind what he is saying are fascinating. The Senate is much more concerned with following rules and procedures than the House, and party loyalty has always seemed to follow the same lines. The Senate has emphasized proper decorum historically, but that appears to be disappearing as younger Republicans are more willing to disagree with the party elders.
It was clear in Chuck Hagel's nomination hearing, when the GOP filibustered him—which is rare for a cabinet nominee.* The split was just as evident when John McCain called senators like Cruz and Paul "wacko birds."
And it's become more obvious than ever in the debate over NSA surveillance. While Lindsey Graham is all over the cable news networks saying he's glad the program exists, Paul is calling for a class action lawsuit against the NSA.
The power has shifted away from the establishment and towards the Tea Party in the Senate, and it terrifies the Democrats. It's easy to characterize the GOP as the party of boring old guys when the Republicans in the news are Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. When Paul and Cruz are the ones making headlines, Republicans look a lot more vivacious. Tea Partiers like Paul and Cruz are the future of the GOP, and that's not something Biden is ready to accept.
*The post incorrectly stated that this was the first time a cabinet nominee had been filibustered and has been modified to reflect this.