Believe it or not, GOP leaders don’t enjoy being in control of Congress. Although they like the increased power and pay-for-play inherent in being the majority party, they have a maniacal fear of responsibility on policy issues. That is because, unlike Democrats, GOP leaders don’t really believe in their campaign promises and are too scared to implement them. Which is why they always hide behind the filibuster as a reason for not fulfilling promises. And that is exactly why Mitch McConnell is now plotting to neutralize the one tool they have to pass good legislation with 51 votes.
The only good thing Congress has done the entire first year of Trump’s presidency is pass the tax bill. One would think that after seeing booming economic news, including Walmart raising wages, as a result of the tax cut, they would seek to expand, not eliminate, the process that afforded them such an auspicious outcome and the ability to circumvent the filibuster. Instead, they are considering doing away with the FY 2018 budget resolution altogether, which would have the effect of scrapping budget reconciliation for this year — the only tool in their arsenal to pass a solid health care reform, a welfare fix, or spending cuts.
Yesterday, Politico reported that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are considering abandoning a formal budget resolution this year, a move that was roundly criticized by Republicans when Democrats were in charge in 2009 and abdicated their responsibility to pass a budget. The entire point of working off a continuing resolution from the FY 2017 since last October was to take the ensuing weeks to craft a full-year budget that reflects Republican policy priorities, includes GOP spending priorities, and offers the vehicle of budget reconciliation to pass a major policy reform this year without the filibusters.
And the latter goal, passing a filibuster-proof reconciliation bill, can only be accomplished if they first craft a budget resolution, not just a spending bill. To most people, this might sound like a difference without a distinction, but under the Budget Control Act of 1974, they can only use the filibuster-proof vehicle of reconciliation if they first adopt a budget resolution.
Senate Republicans appear to be abandoning all three goals for the budget: codifying conservative policies, cutting spending, and producing a reconciliation vehicle to avoid the filibuster on Obamacare repeal or entitlement reform.
They cannot pass even moderately conservative policies without the reconciliation process; without it, they will not have the 60 votes needed to defeat the filibuster. If they abandon a budget resolution and the reconciliation process, they clearly have no intention of defunding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities or of funding the full border wall.
They are now planning a two-year deal that would increase non-defense spending by $95 billion. It incorporates none of the major provisions of the president’s budget blueprint, which cut wasteful non-defense programs. And while I support beefing up the military, they plan on increasing spending by $152 billion over the next two years without any regard for cutting waste at the Pentagon and defining the goals and missions of our military and foreign policy. As I’ve noted before, reorienting the policies of the military and also ending social engineering are more important than the spending figures. What’s the point of funding a military that is involved in the wrong conflicts and is used as a petri dish of social experimentation for transgenderism?
Now, by completely avoiding the passage of a formal budget resolution to accompany the spending bills, Republicans will be giving up their ability to pass anything good this year. They refuse to use their majority, while they still have it, to enhance their chances of keeping it.
Just today, Rep. Steve Womack, R- Ark., was elected chairman of the House Budget Committee. He replaced Rep. Dianne Black, R-Tenn., who resigned the chair in order to focus on her run for governor in Tennessee. Now is his time to shine. As his first act, Womack has an opportunity to draw a line in the sand against the Senate and demand a budget resolution with reconciliation attached to it. He should get to the president before McConnell does and assure him that if McConnell gets his way, he will have no tools left in his arsenal to positively influence the midterm elections.
Unless they change their agenda in the Senate, there is no way they can honestly come to conservative voters later this year and ask for their votes.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.