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GOP Civil War Breaking Out, Heating Up

The intra-party fight between fiscal conservatives and squishy moderates in the GOP has been in full view in Congress for the past two weeks, in California this week, and will likely take center stage in Nevada next week.

When House Republicans voted unanimously against the Obama/Reid/Pelosi “Porkulus” bill – not once, but twice – Republican activists nationwide stood up and cheered. It gave them hope that maybe; just maybe, congressional Republicans had learned their lesson and were returning to their fiscal conservative roots.

And then, like Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, moderate Republican Sens. Arlen Specter, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe sold out their GOP colleagues, voted for “Porkulus,” and gave the Democrats the “bipartisan” cover they so desperately desired.

This didn’t exactly surprise many grassroots activists who have seen this play before, but it did anger them. Big time. But the thing that ticked them off even more is the fact that these three RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) appear to have gotten away with it (again) without any penalty or sanction by the Republican Party. After all, actions are supposed to have consequences, right?

Like next door in California.

Moderate Republican Gov. Arnold “The Taxinator” Schwarzenegger wants to raise taxes, but he can’t do it without at least three Republican votes in the state Senate. This week Republican Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill and one other Republican caved in and joined the Democrats in supporting a “compromise” (capitulation) plan which includes huge tax hikes. Fortunately, every other Republican held their ground.

For his betrayal, reports John Fund of Political Diary, Cogdill’s Senate colleagues “unceremoniously dumped” him as Republican Minority Leader “and replaced him with Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, a fierce opponent of higher taxes.”

Now that’s what we’re talking about! Bad behavior should be penalized, not rewarded or overlooked. Otherwise bad Republicans will just keep acting like bad Republicans.

A similar situation will likely confront Nevada Republicans next week. Democrats cannot pass a proposed tax increase being peddled by their teachers union allies without at least two Republican votes in the Senate. And the betting is that moderate Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio – who was endorsed by the union in his primary against a conservative Republican challenger last summer – will be one of those two Republicans.

Make no mistake: If Sen. Raggio caves, most of his GOP colleagues will likely buckle as well to give the boss “cover.” But if Sen. Raggio finds his “inner Republican” and rejects this tax grab, so will every other member of his caucus, thus killing it. It’s that simple.

The unfunny funny thing about this is that Sen. Raggio has taken to calling Republicans who won’t capitulate on tax-and-spending issues “extremists,” while holding himself out as the one, true Republican. Which means 221 out of 224 Republicans in the United States Congress, and all but two Republicans in the California Legislature, are “extremists.”

Why do I get the feeling that it’s Sen. Raggio who’s out of step with his party, not the “extremists”?

In addition, despite the fact that not a single Republican vote is needed to pass the union’s tax hike in the Assembly – just as no Republican votes were needed to pass “Porkulus” in the House of Representatives – a handful of moderate Republicans are desperately trying to rationalize a “yes” vote, which would give Democrats the illusion of “bipartisan” support and once again take the tax issue away from GOP candidates in 2010.

That some Nevada Republican legislators are going to cave in and sell out their party on the tax issue next week is, sadly, pretty much a foregone conclusion. The question is whether or not they’ll have to pay a political price for “pulling a Specter.”

They should. Every Republican legislator who votes for this teachers union tax hike should earn a serious primary challenge next year – because the GOP can’t go after tax-and-spend Democrats until they get their own house in order first.