Welcome to Capitol Hill, the land of WWE fake fights.
When Joshua escorted Moses down from Mt. Sinai and was informing him about the Golden Calf, he said, “there is a voice of battle in the camp.” Moses replied, “It is neither a shout of victory, nor the shout of defeat. What I hear is just plain shouting.” [Exodus, 32:17-18]
This portrayal of the battle over the Golden Calf accurately depicts the budget battle unfolding between the two parties. On a deeper level, it exemplifies the entire faux conflict between the two heads of the ruling oligarchy.
Really, Mitch? This is your hill to die on?
The media is agog with excitement over the prospect of a government shutdown as Senate Republicans and Democrats appear to be at loggerheads over the budget bill. Ironically, despite all the bitter shouting and finger-pointing, there is no major point of contention on 99.9 percent of the budget. Republicans literally gave Democrats everything they wanted. Think of all the outrageous and often illegal executive actions Obama has taken this year. The GOP budget funds every policy, along with the White House’s requested spending levels. This bill funds Obama’s entire legacy.
Nonetheless, in order to show that he can orchestrate a fight — just because he can — Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (F, 42%) withheld from Democrats two very minor concessions. He had no problem consummating Obama’s internet giveaway and refugee resettlement increase — policies that will fundamentally transform this country. He had no problem passing a budget bill with no limitations on the Iran deal and ransom payments. He had no problem passing a budget without any tweaks to Planned Parenthood funding or Obamacare. In fact, the bill contained Zika funding for Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood affiliate. In addition, McConnell gave Harry Reid, R-Nev. (F, 2%) a continuing resolution (CR) that expires in the lame-duck session so that Democrats can use December to pass terrible policies, such as criminal justice deform.
So what is the GOP hill to die on?
Keeping funding for the Flint, Michigan water crisis out of the CR and retaining a provision blocking Obama’s Security and Exchange Commission from requiring publically traded companies to disclose their political donors.
Funding for Flint Michigan
Democrats are demanding that the budget bill include $220 million in loan guarantees and grants to help the city deal with its lead-poisoned drinking water system and establish long-term health monitoring programs. This is a provision in the draft Senate legislation to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (S. 2848).
Obviously, as a matter of policy, bailing out a local government from its mistakes is a terrible idea, as Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT (A-100%) has warned. We need to devolve more of the water projects to state and local governments, not create a bigger federal role in projects that are not national in scope. But Republicans are funding every wasteful and damaging program under the sun, including many new and costlier programs they helped Obama create over the past few years.
Really, Mitch? This is your hill to die on?
I’m old enough to remember when Republicans lambasted conservatives for forcing a budget brinkmanship over terribly unpopular programs like Obamacare, funding Planned Parenthood, and Obama’s amnesty.
Moreover, Republicans appeared even more unprincipled by the fact that they planned to give Louisiana an extra $500 million in disaster relief in the CR. Now, obviously natural disasters are different from the Flint, Michigan case, but still, is this the hill to die on? Giving Democrats the talking point that Republicans are all for extra spending on red states and not blue states? This is especially salient given that FEMA still has $3.4 billion in unspent disaster funds for this year.
Finally, after Democrats blocked the vote on cloture late Tuesday afternoon, McConnell caved on his own bizarre red line and filed a new CR that took out Louisiana funding. He caved on his own cave.
This entire issue is a charade because Republicans plan to fully fund the Democrat expansion of federalized water projects, including aid for Flint, Michigan, in the boondoggle water bill they plan to pass in a separate bill. Hence, they’ve picked the worst issue to fight on, an expenditure that reflects 0.00001% of the budget that they plan to fund in a separate bill anyway. But by all means, bring in 110,000 refugees in middle of a homegrown terror crisis, hand control over the internet to Russia and China, fund Obama’s DACA amnesty and sanctuary city policies, and Obama’s end-of-term jailbreak of violent prisoners. Much ado about nothing!
Campaign Cash Brings out GOP Principles
The other provision that is drawing Democrat opposition, albeit to a lesser extent, is the campaign finance rider. This is vintage McConnell. He doesn’t care about any civilization issue, but made sure to slip in one policy rider on campaign finance. Of all the harmful executive actions to fight, McConnell stuck in a rider blocking the SEC from finalizing a rule requiring public corporations to disclose political donations to trade associations or entities that engage in electioneering. While conservatives certainly disagree with the constitutionality of Obama’s move, especially when enacted via executive fiat, this move gives the Democrats a perfect talking point that the GOP only cares about K Street.
It’s one thing if this would be included in a slew of riders expressing conservative funding priorities. But this carve-out wreaks of skewed priorities. And as I told The Hill’s Alex Bolton several years ago, McConnell is not fighting on this issue because he cares about the First Amendment, given the fact that he supports campaign finance regulations, such as caps on individual donors, when they benefit his interests and hurt insurgency primary challengers.
Even if Democrats ultimately drop their objection to this one provision, is this what victory looks like? Really?
They don’t call this the stupid party for nothing.