New York (CNN) — The battle over relief funding for areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy should leave no doubt about whether there is a war within the Republican Party over the fundamentals of taxation and spending.
On one side are old-school pols who are committed to reducing government deficits but willing to engage in traditional horse-trading with their big-spending liberal colleagues — and to support items such as relief for disasters, which can strike any region of the country at any time.
On the other side are dyed-in-the-wool budget radicals, who believe government spending must be curtailed, deeply and immediately. They are perfectly comfortable slicing, delaying or crippling normally sacrosanct programs, including disaster relief.
The two sides are engaged in an old-fashioned power struggle, with Speaker of the House John Boehner as the man in the middle, trying to keep a lid on the battle. The factional fighting delayed and nearly destroyed the fiscal cliff negotiations, with Boehner unable to persuade most of his Republican members to vote for a compromise bill that kept taxes from increasing for nearly all Americans.
Trying to get a vote on hurricane relief the same night proved to be a bridge too far. Boehner, struggling to keep his divided caucus in line — and facing a critical vote to renew his speakership — decided to kill the aid bill.