Raising the debt ceiling brings out the worst in Republicans. It sets the stage for endless posturing, with GOP legislators railing about budget deficits as they confront the inevitable outcome of the spending bills they themselves have passed. I don’t mean to jump on the GOP, but let’s face it: Democrats don’t even pretend to care about our national debt.
This time round, Republicans in Congress are just livid that Donald Trump has done a deal with Democrats to quickly raise the debt limit, even though they have only themselves to blame. Conservatives in the House, especially, have been a pain in Trump’s backside for months.
The GOP leadership had to pander to Rand Paul, Mark Meadows et al as they tried to repeal and replace ObamaCare, hardening the proposed legislation to the point that it drove away critical moderate votes in the Senate.
As a result, the country watched Republicans engage in one of the most embarrassing legislative defeats in history, prompting many to question whether the party had the chops to govern.
More important, by undermining efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act, the conservative caucus made tax reform almost impossible. The GOP’s proposed health care legislation would have rolled back one trillion dollars of expected ACA taxes over the next ten years, lowering projected revenues and making it much easier to cut taxes and still comply with the rules of budget reconciliation. Since Democrats will not support tax cuts, budget reconciliation is the only path to success.
To remind: the only way this country can possibly pay for its ever-expanding entitlements programs, which none in Congress has the guts to challenge, is by speeding up our economic growth. And, the most obvious way to do that is through tax cuts.
The Freedom Caucus didn’t care; it was their way or the highway. Now, they are working to present their own tax bill, which from every indication will be as impractical and useless as their insistence on abolishing all government-sponsored healthcare insurance. But at least they will be able to pretend to their backers that they tried their best.
Meanwhile, the conservative caucus is shocked that the president has looked elsewhere for support. Their threats to oppose a bill combining Hurricane Harvey relief with raising the debt ceiling drove President Trump across the aisle into the welcoming arms of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
The hypocrisy is stunning. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, a member of the right-wing Republican Study Committee, objected to a “clean” hike of the debt ceiling, suggesting he wanted to tie any increase to reduced Medicaid spending. Where was he when Republicans were trying to push through their health care bill? You know, the bill that would have resulted in substantial cuts to Medicaid -- the bill that been described as “the most significant welfare reform in decades?” He was nowhere to be found.
Or what about Andy Biggs, who actually voted against the combined debt ceiling/Harvey bill because he was hoping for “real reforms?” Oh, that’s right – he voted against the healthcare bill, even after the leadership threw in numerous important concessions, thus toppling any hopes of reining in Medicaid, our nation’s most out-of-control welfare program.
Americans who elected Donald Trump are frustrated with Republicans in Congress. The president came to the White House dependent on the GOP majorities in the House and Senate, which he helped create, to enact his widely popular agenda.
Most Republicans wanted to repeal and replace the health care law which is an ongoing calamity for millions of working families who cannot afford either insurance or medical care.
Most Republicans want simpler, fairer taxes, and lower rates for job-creating small and large businesses.
Most Republicans want our immigration laws enforced, trade agreements which benefit American workers and a return to a more robust presence overseas.
Most Republicans want our country’s embarrassing infrastructure fixed and better public schools.
That’s the Trump agenda, which Republicans in the House and Senate have done little to promote.
Those objectives will not move forward unless the conservatives in the House resign themselves to this: they will never be in charge. Ted Cruz will not be elected president, nor will Mark Meadows. Their views are not broadly popular so they will never win a national election. Their job, an important one to be sure, is to advise and consent – to guide this president, to raise issues of importance, but to allow for progress at the same time.
Conservatives are correct that this country needs to rein in its spending, and to confront our entitlements programs. But that is a reason for supporting this president, the first in decades to attempt to shrink the federal workforce and budget. The liberal media squawks about jobs being cut at State or the Interior Department. That’s a good sign, as is the fact they usually fail to show that those lost jobs were in any way productive.
Conservatives across the country need to tell their legislators that they back the Trump agenda and want progress. Tell them it’s time for them to do their job, and do what’s right for the country.