The annual budget is the most powerful tool given over to the party that controls Congress. It is a tool that can be used to express the priorities and worldview of that party, and can be used as a platform to present their case for a White House win.
In a sane world, Republicans would have immediately presented their budget this week, funded every agency and department (even the bad ones and functions like Obamacare that will have to wait for future leverage points), albeit prohibited funding for some of the most damaging and imminent problems facing this country. Obama’s refugee increase, the internet giveaway, and payments to Iran, to name a few. The bill would include emergency funding for Zika, but stipulate that leftover funds from Ebola must be used first and that no funding can go to Planned Parenthood.
Republicans could have spoken with moral clarity to the American people that Democrats, who refused to pass a budget when they controlled Congress, better not shut down the government in order to fund Iran, turn America into Europe’s security nightmare, and hand off America’s greatest invention to a tribunal influenced by Russia and China. If Democrats want to shut down the government and not fight Zika because they want funding for a private entity under criminal investigation for harvesting baby parts, let them have at it.
When you actually believe in something, especially regarding popular issues that resonate with voters, it’s not too hard to message it. But alas, these GOP leaders believe in nothing beyond pursuing the path to least resistance. Democrats embrace confrontation as a means of promoting their agenda, even when it’s unpopular; Republicans abjure confrontation even when it is politically advantageous for them.
In comes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (F, 42%). Instead of throwing a touchdown, he actually plans to toss an interception and use the GOP-control of the Senate to undermine conservatives in the House. Yes, this is another example of why it was actually worse to win back the Senate with RINOs in 2014 than to have Democrats control that body. McConnell is preemptively undermining House conservatives by openly calling for Harry Reid’s plan of a continuing resolution (CR) that fully funds Obama’s agenda with no significant expression of American priorities, much less conservative ones.
There are also late reports indicating that McConnell plans to capitulate and drop the prohibition on funding Planned Parenthood in the Zika bill, as suggested as suggested by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (C, 77%) and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. (F 17%) earlier this week. This runs counter to the House bill passed earlier this year. It’s essentially a fight with Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, and Obama on one side and House conservatives on another side. House leadership is pretending to fight for conservatives while allowing McConnell to orchestrate the sabotage for them.
What’s worse, McConnell is also siding with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. (D, 2%) against conservatives by demanding that the budget bill expire in December, during the lame duck session, instead of some time in 2017. If Republicans plan to surrender and not go for a touchdown by harnessing the budget leverage to force good policy, at the very least they should be prevented from tossing an interception and tacking on bad policy to the “must-pass” budget bill. By having this iteration of the CR expire during the lame duck session, history has shown that retiring members act out as political suicide bombers and use the must-pass vehicle as a conduit for extraneous liberal bills. All sorts of bad bill could potential hitch a ride on a budget bill in December.
This is why I believe there is no utility to conservatives rewarding liberal Republican senators by voting for them in November. It’s one thing to vote for a presidential candidate or a GOP House, even when the candidates in the general elections aren’t conservative because there is more at stake in preventing a bad Democrat agenda. But once Republicans have control of the House, there is no utility to having a “Republican” Senate with the current cast of characters. And in fact, they make matters worse by lending the GOP name to Democrat priorities and marginalizing House Republicans. The only difference they would make if Hillary Clintonwins the presidency (if Trump wins, on the other hand, it’s hard to see Republicans losing the Senate) is the ability to block judicial nominees. But if you think these people would block any Hillary nominee after having won the presidency you have not been paying attention.
Despite McConnell’s betrayal, the House Freedom Caucus must hold their ground and demand, at the very least, that A) any budget bill not expire during the lame duck session and B) Obama’s refugee program must be defunded (no gimmick provisions like the one the House passed last year). If they don’t stand firm and do so quickly, McConnell will have the ball in the wrong end-zone within days.