The behavior of the House GOP in the current showdown -- whether or not they reach some sort of deal -- makes them guilty of sedition. Whether they're indicted, arrested, and imprisoned for it, America should not forget or forgive this come election time.
Here's the why and how of it.
The definition of sedition says among other things that "If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire... by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States... they shall each be fined or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."
And in case you hear that "force" means physical violence only, here's the legal definition of extortion (a felony): "The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right." "Official right" means a government official claiming he or she is acting under the law to commit extortion.
The law that probably applies here is 18 USC 1951, the Hobbs Act, which deals with extortion--a felony, as per the sedition statute. While Hobbs deals mainly with injury to individuals, it seems to me to be a small step to observe that every citizen of the United States is an individual, and the United States is being harmed -- although whether prosecutors would find it an exact fit is up to them, and not mere journalists like myself. You'll notice however that force is not necessarily defined as physical violence.
A federal court guide designed to help prosecutors apply the Hobbs Act asks them to consider the following questions when entertaining the idea of indictment.
*Did the defendant induce or attempt to induce the victim to give up property or property rights?
*Did the defendant use or attempt to use the victim's reasonable fear of physical injury or economic harm in order to induce the victim's consent to give up property?
*Did the defendant's conduct actually or potentially obstruct, delay, or affect interstate or foreign commerce in any (realistic) way or degree?
*Was the defendant's actual or threatened use of force, violence or fear wrongful?
If the answers to those questions are yes in full or in part, the prosecutor may choose to apply the Hobbes Act. It seems to me these criteria apply to the House GOP's recent behavior.
Some will claim that the Constitution exempts members of Congress from arrest for what they do in their official capacity while congress is in session. But this may not be really true.
Here's the Constitution's language on the subject -- Article II, Section 6: "...They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place. "
Extortion is a felony.
Will the GOP leadership be indicted? My guess is the country wants to put all this behind it, once it's resolved.
Should they be indicted? That's a different question. The tea party, after all, holds itself out as the Constitution's most faithful followers.