The Republican Party is split -- again. This time the divide is between the Tortilla Coast conservatives and their moderate counterparts: Pete's Diner Republicans.
On Wednesday morning, just hours before the government was to hit its debt ceiling and throw the U.S. economy into a tailspin, a group of Republicans supportive of House Speaker John Boehner ran into each other at Pete's, a cozy greasy spoon breakfast joint on Capitol Hill.
The diner is a favorite of Boehner's, who regularly eats breakfast on the counter stool furthest from the door. The speaker was dressed casually in running shoes and a red Nike cap. Missing from his cap was Nike's decisive slogan: "Just Do It."
Boehner hugged his waitress as he got up to leave and on his way out was asked by the Washington Examiner whether he was confident a deal could be hammered out before the debt ceiling was reached. "Oh, yeah," he said. "Oh, yeah."
The speaker was no sooner out the door when Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., an ardent critic of Sen. Ted Cruz and other Tortilla Coast Republicans, walked in to order some takeout breakfast.
"Hey, fix this mess, will ya?" he jocularly yelled across the diner to Rep. Mike Kelly , R-Pa., with whom Boehner, too, had stopped to chat briefly before making his exit. “I’ll take the blame!” Kelly jokingly shouted back.
Kelly urged his Republican colleagues in September to back Boehner, R-Ohio, over a band of conservatives looking to take control of the government funding debate. King has since become one of the most vocal critics of fellow Republicans loyal to Sen. Ted Cruz, calling it a "crazy movement."
"It's really time to speak out against him," King said of Cruz earlier this week. “I've been speaking out against Ted Cruz and this whole crazy movement since it started."
Though their meetings were serendipitous, Republicans going in and out of Pete's were generally those who never wanted to shut down the government in the fight over Obamacare started by Cruz and a few dozen other lawmakers. Nor did they want to take the government to precipice of default by refusing to raise the nation's borrowing limit.
Together, they've made Pete's the ideological polar opposite of Tortilla Coast, another Capitol Hill eatery at which Cruz and like-minded lawmakers gathered for a strategy session Monday evening, Roll Call reported, just when it appeared that moderates may wrest the debate from their hands and settle with Senate Democrats and the White House.
"Ted Cruz and his Tortilla Coast Republicans are leading us to a default," a Senate aide told TPM.
Also spotted at Pete's Diner Wednesday morning was Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had pleaded with Boehner Friday to craft a government spending and debt ceiling deal that could pass the Senate and get signed into law.
The senator, who isn't running for re-election in 2014 and will soon be done with the chaos of Capitol Hill, ate breakfast in peaceful solitude.