The fight that led to the government shutdown and near default of the United States' debt was caused by one thing, and one thing only: Attempt to delay, defund, or repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The entire situation could have been averted, the trust of a nation could have been spared, had the Tea Party rebels in the Republican Party did not force a showdown over a law that, while broken, could be fixed with actual legislation. Now, those same Tea Partiers are pulling about-faces: Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas says that they will not only stop from requesting delays to Obamacare, but will prevent Democrats and President Barack Obama from putting delays in place. Which begs the question: What do you actually want, Republicans?
Tom Cotton, representing the 4th district, spoke at a town-hall style meeting with the Benton County Republican Women organization earlier this week. Cotton said that he would not be surprised "if in 30 days, or 45 days, [...] it's not Republicans who are asking for a delay of Obamacare or a delay of the mandate, it's Barack Obama and [Senator] Mark Pryor coming to us, asking us to delay it for them." From there, Cotton argues, it puts Republicans in control of the situation through forcing Democrats to make concessions.
It should be noted that Cotton is currently the lone Republican to be facing Mark Pryor in the 2014 Senate race in Arkansas, and is firing up the rhetoric in what is likely to be a very close race. Still, it is a very telling situation. After spending many months trying to repeal Obamacare, Cotton, a member of the informal "defund" caucus, is flip-flopping for no other reason than because it turns out that the launch of the insurance marketplace through HealthCare.Gov has turned into a catastrophe.
At the end of the day, though, it may not be that Cotton flipped, because again, the question should be asked: What do Republicans want? If the answer is to delay or repeal Obamacare, then yes, Cotton flip-flopped. But if the actual answer, the answer that Republicans do not wish to really give publicly, is to undermine President Barack Obama at every opportunity, then Cotton is being consistent with his beliefs. Sleazy and incompetent, yes, but consistent.