The long knives are out for the wrong Utah Republican.
A concerted effort is underway from ruling-class Republicans to hang Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, for stopping the Senate GOP’s phony Obamacare “repeal” legislation.
Even though Senator Lee’s plea for full repeal and principled opposition to Obamacare is the universal position given lip-service by virtually every member of the GOP for the past seven years, terms like “cargo cult” and “self-inflicted fiasco” are attached to Lee by the duplicitous conservatives-in-name-only at The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.
As Politico recounts, moderate Republicans in “conservative” media are hoisting Sen. Mike Lee up as “the main cause of the GOP’s recent dysfunction”:
A cohort of Republicans from the center-right are bearing down on Lee as the main cause of the GOP’s recent dysfunction — even though Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) jumped with Lee on Monday in coming out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to repeal and replace the health law.
Talk show host Hugh Hewitt said Lee and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) “saved Obamacare” from Republicans’ repeal efforts. Lee maneuvered to “preserve every word of Obamacare,” wrote Republican healthcare policy strategist Avik Roy. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page labeled him one of the “Obamacare Republicans" in an editorial Republicans widely circulated on Capitol Hill.
Astoundingly, when Republicans are placed in power and it becomes time to turn conservative theory into governing practice, these media conservatives are content with betrayal. Seven years’ worth of promises from Republican leadership that Obamacare must be repealed — “root and branch” — and think-pieces by “intellectuals” and “experts” explaining how Obamacare’s regulations are killing health insurance. Now these so-called conservatives are attacking Senator Lee for attempting to do what they all said needed to be done.
Chief among Lee’s critics is his Senate colleague from Utah, who sandbagged Lee’s repeal efforts, according to Politico.
“I don’t see him looking for a path to yes. It seems like he’s against everything right now,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “That’s the way it looks to me.”
Let’s be clear: Mike Lee is under attack for trying to keep Orrin Hatch’s promises. Actually, he’s only trying to partly keep Hatch’s 2012 election promise to repeal Obamacare; Lee has already compromised to the center by agreeing to vote for faux-repeal, provided the original language of Senator Ted Cruz’s consumer freedom amendment is included in the language.
Lee’s terms for “yes” are obvious to anyone paying attention, yet Senator Hatch dishonestly slings arrows at him as the majority of the GOP conference opposes health insurance choice and freedom.
Running for reelection in 2012, Orrin Hatch presented himself to voters as a tea-party conservative. He told voters in his state that Obamacare would “lead us down to destruction and eat us alive” and vowed to repeal it. Senator Hatch — the longest-serving Republican senator in history — also promised that this term would be his last term in office, as he will be 84 years old in 2018.
In both cases, Orrin Hatch lied. He is now straddling the fence regarding reelection, most likely indicating that he’d like to run but is delaying a formal announcement for as long as possible to dissuade potential primary challengers from jumping in the race.
And as for repealing Obamacare? Sen. Hatch openly declared himself in favor of keeping Obamacare’s individual mandate until 2020 as part of the GOP’s Obamacare “repeal” effort. This position is consistent with Sen. Hatch’s history of pro-government-intervention positions on health care — and contrary to what he’s told voters. (Yet the editorial board and pages of the WSJ are silent on this “Obamacare Republican.”)
The campaign conservatives, like Hatch, have become governing liberals. The most influential voices for Obamacare repeal when President Obama was in office have become the converse in 2017. This is the Republican apparatus, what CR’s Daniel Horowitz calls the “GOP’s duplicity game” — attack the people who say what they said during campaigns, and then flip the script when they are in power.
“I’m not being an absolutist,” Senator Mike Lee told Politico Thursday. “I’m a little frustrated by some who are eager and willing to call me out for saying this doesn’t go far enough in doing what we promised to do for seven years.”
Criticizing “our self-interested senators,” the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel names Senator Lee as one of a “handful of senators” blocking a vote on the GOP bill. “Few things drive conservative voters battier than phony politicians, those who say one thing and do another to avoid hard choices,” she writes.
Mike Lee is a conservative fighting to keep Republican promises. Senator Hatch is a exactly the kind of “phony” Strassel says conservative voters hate, undermining Lee’s fight to ensure greater freedoms in America. Yet Hatch is mentioned nowhere in her piece.
Could it be more obvious that the wrong lawmaker is under assault?
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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