After only eight months in office, Meadows made national headlines by sending an open letter to the Republican leaders of the House demanding they use the “power of the purse” to kill the Affordable Care Act. By then, the law had been upheld by the Supreme Court and affirmed when voters reelected Obama in 2012. But Meadows argued that Republicans should sabotage it by refusing to appropriate any funds for its implementation. And, if they didn’t get their way, they would shut down the government. By fall, Meadows had succeeded in getting more than seventy-nine Republican congressmen to sign on to this plan, forcing Speaker of the House John Boehner, who had opposed the radical measure, to accede to their demands. Meadows later blamed the media for exaggerating his role, but he was hailed by his local Tea Party group as “our poster boy” and by CNN as the “architect” of the 2013 shutdown. The fanfare grew less positive when the radicals in Congress refused to back down, bringing virtually the entire federal government to a halt for sixteen days in October, leaving the country struggling to function without all but the most vital federal services. In Meadows’s district, day-care centers that were reliant on federal aid reportedly turned distraught families away, and nearby national parks were closed, bringing the tourist trade to a sputtering standstill. National polls showed public opinion was overwhelmingly against the shutdown. Even the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a conservative, called the renegades “the Suicide Caucus.” But the gerrymandering of 2010 had created what Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker called a “historical oddity.” Political extremists now had no incentive to compromise, even with their own party’s leadership. To the contrary, the only threats faced by Republican members from the new, ultraconservative districts were primary challenges from even more conservative candidates. Statistics showed that the eighty members of the so-called Suicide Caucus were a strikingly unrepresentative minority. They represented only 18 percent of the country’s population and just a third of the overall Republican caucus in the House. Gerrymandering had made their districts far less ethnically diverse and further to the right than the country as a whole. They were anomalies, yet because of radicalization of the party’s donor base they wielded disproportionate power. “In previous eras,” Lizza noted, “ideologically extreme minorities could be controlled by party leadership. What’s new about the current House of Representatives is that party discipline has broken down on the Republican side.” Party bosses no longer ruled. Big outside money had failed to buy the 2012 presidential election, but it had nonetheless succeeded in paralyzing the U.S. government. Meadows of course was not able to engineer the government shutdown by himself. Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, whose 2012 victory had also been fueled by right-wing outside money, orchestrated much of the congressional strategy.
Jane Mayer (Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right)