The roots of the Republican crackup this fall that paralyzed the House, fueled the unexpected rise of Speaker Mike Johnson and now threatens to force a government shutdown crisis early next year lie in a fateful choice the party made more than a decade ago that has come back to haunt its leaders.

In early 2009, congressional Republicans were staring down a long exile in the political wilderness. Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and Democrats were within reach of a…


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