To circumvent the Republican go-alongs in Congress and the anonymous “resistance” supposedly in his own administration, all President Trump needs to do is seriously brandish the veto pen.
If Democrats control the House, they get everything they want on the budget. If they control the Senate, they get everything they want. If they control the presidency, they get what they want. If they control all three, they get what they want. And if they control nothing … they still get what they want.
That has been the view of congressional Republicans for years. That view is precisely why Republican voters selected Trump in the primary. Yet Trump has now been convinced to go along with the swamp mindset – that any Democrat demand in a budget bill is regular order and every conservative demand in the budget is “drama,” even when Republicans control government.
Why is it that if we have a sensible bill that reflects the GOP’s campaign promises brought up in the House, supported by the president, yet blocked by the minority in the Senate through the filibuster, that White House officials regard it as Republicans shutting down the government? Why is it always heads Democrats win, tails Democrats win?
The president is misleadingly promising to fight “the next time,” a promise he and his Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney, have been making since the beginning of the presidency. But this is the fifth major cave on a budget bill spanning three fiscal years, in addition to the blank check on the budget caps and debt ceiling. (For further reading: April 2017, September 2017, December 2017, the February 2018 debt ceiling betrayal, and the March 2018 omnibus.)
With a criminal alien crisis and a bogus asylum invasion in full swing, nothing is being done in the budget about the “unaccompanied alien children,” asylees, criminal aliens, sanctuary cities, and the court involvement in national sovereignty. If you believe that somehow, after they lose the election, things will get better and they will suddenly fight on a budget bill, you deserve the results of such naivete.
Trump and his advisers are contending that they are already starting some of the wall. But a slowly constructed wall in a few places without dealing with the aforementioned policy problems will not solve the problem.
Moreover, some in the Freedom Caucus and elsewhere are convincing the president that we would lose in a budget fight over immigration. In fact, they will lose badly if nothing is done to change the narrative, and there is a strong case to be made that immigration is the best issue over which to have a budget fight, as it also ties in crime, national security, and the drug crisis.
Every single budget bill this president has signed has made a mockery of his own budget blueprint. Every agency he promised to cut is actually increased. The upcoming continuing resolution will place all that above-baseline growth on autopilot, while legislators have already agreed to pass an omnibus a few months later increasing spending to an even higher level. This presidency will be finished on domestic policy or cutting spending (or even not increasing spending!). The only way to leverage against the filibuster is to force the House to pass a good bill and threaten to veto any other bill. That is the only way to force a discussion over Senate rules. Now, Republicans have no narrative to run on and will lose the House anyway. Game over.
For all the focus on the Senate, it is astounding how Republicans refuse to use their categorical control over the House. It’s true that Democrats can filibuster in the Senate, but they don’t have the votes to pass what they affirmatively want in the Senate either. Nor do they have the House and the White House. If Republicans really believed in their campaign promises, they would immediately pass a budget bill that reflects the president’s spending, health care, abortion, and immigration priorities and leave town while Trump uses the bully pulpit leveraged by a veto threat to beat the Senate into submission.
Yet not only do Senate Republicans pass Democrat budget bills, the House has pre-emptively gone to conference with the Senate on the Democrat spending priorities. Yesterday, representatives voted on a bill that funds the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, and HUD way above Trump’s desired levels and even above last year’s omnibus levels. The proposed EPA funding is 50 percent over Trump’s budget request!
It is quite evident that the issue here is not that Republicans don’t hold enough power, because realistically speaking, they will never hold more power. The issue is that Republicans don’t fundamentally disagree with Democrats on most issues, at least not enough of them. They have cleverly used the fear of a government shutdown as the excuse for nullifying the power of the purse. When they controlled Congress alongside a Democrat president, they used the specter of a government shutdown from a presidential veto as the excuse not to fight. Now that they control Congress alongside a Republican president, they use a Democrat filibuster as an excuse against both the power of the purse in the House and the veto of the president.
It is simply astounding that the same senators who are proclaiming that the Supreme Court nominee vote is their most “important vote” and “solemn duty” are the very people who refuse to recognize the much more robust powers of the purse and the veto.
Sadly, we are experiencing the ultimate government shutdown. No, not the temporary slowdown of 17 percent of the bureaucracy when there is a funding lapse in discretionary spending. This is the shutdown when we have nullified the proper checks and balances of each branch. The shutdown of believing that the judiciary has the sole and exclusive say on every policy issue. What we have at our border and in our communities from criminal aliens, gangs, and drugs is nothing short of an invasion, yet politicians on both sides are shutting down the entire purpose of our government by not redressing this urgent problem.
Voters selected an unorthodox president in Donald Trump precisely because they thought he’d finally end this logjam and restore our system of government. If he surrenders his veto pen and goes along with the fear of a government shutdown, then his supporters will have been proven wrong. And what a shame.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.