When the Chinese intervened in the Korean War they hoped to sweep south with overwhelming numbers and drive the UN forces back. Simple plan, and the numbers were in their favor. Success seemed likely. However, from November 27 to December 13 fighting occurred at the Chosin Reservoir. The Chinese achieved their goal of forcing UN forces from northeast Korea. However, the UN forces were able to successfully withdraw, and in the process approximately one-third of the Chinese forces were casualties. While the Chinese victory was not pyrrhic, it did significantly weaken the third-phase offensive and set up the stalemate that followed.
What does a 1950 Korean War battle have to do with the special session? The “freedom caucus” lead a successful battle, dubbed the Mother’s Day Massacre, in the House leading to the special session. This scorched-earth tactic had the desired result of getting conservative items on the agenda for the special session. Hats off to the victors. However, the overall political situation isn’t any more favorable to the freedom caucus now than at the Mother’s Day Massacre. Although a new speaker needs to be elected for the session how likely is it that someone other than Straus is elected? He will receive all 55 democrat’s votes for speaker. With those in his back pocket he only needs 20 of the 95 republicans to side with him to hold on as speaker.
Right now, a campaign to replace Straus is ongoing. The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin polling shows 29% of republicans consider themselves tea-party. The freedom caucus numbers 11 (11.5%), suggesting freedom caucus support is in concentrated areas diluting statewide influence. They need to pick up 65 additional republican votes to unseat Straus. With the ill-will floating around after the Mother’s Day Massacre, this is a tall order.
Straus has drifted from center-right to center-left in his governance of the House. If Straus is to be replaced, a compromise candidate will need to be found for a negotiated replacement. The good of the party calls for such an action. This means neither the freedom caucus nor the moderate republicans will be happy this special session. However, with the political capital spent in the Mother’s Day Massacre the freedom caucus isn’t in a position to control the agenda. They showed they can fight and win the tough fight. Now, it’s decision time. Will they compromise and capitalize to some degree on their victory?
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