This week, the intensity gap between Obama and the Republicans will be on display for all to see.
Obama is set to announce his agenda for his final year in office and Republicans are set to, well, announce their plans to drift in the wind and help his agenda. What is so peculiar about all the major issues we face this year—Islamic terror, a border surge, refugee problems, increasing crime, gun control—is that the public opposes Obama on every one of them. Yet, Obama is enthusiastic to promote his agenda while Republicans are cowering in fear. It’s as absurd as the winning team going into the fourth quarter of a game up three touchdowns but diffident about their ability to play that final quarter, while the losing team retakes the field with all the bravado of a three-touchdown advantage.
With the Senate GOP convening its first legislative week of 2016 and Obama delivering his final State of the Union Address, here is what to expect:
Confirming Liberal Judges
You can’t make this up. After Obama announced his illegal gun control measures and backdoor increase of immigration, and at a time when we have an even broader immigration and Islamic terror crisis, the first Senate vote of the year is…to confirm a liberal judge! Later this afternoon, Republicans will bring the nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo to the floor of the Senate. They will easily confirm him to sit on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Restrepo spent years as a public defender and in private practice as a criminal defense and “civil rights” attorney. Needless to say, he is enthusiastically supported by far left groups. Blocking judges is the one thing Republicans have no excuse to shy away from, especially with control of the Senate. Yet, they’ve learned nothing from the gay marriage crisis in the courts. They believe that as long as someone has a distinguished career in the legal profession, even if they don’t believe in the document they swear an oath to uphold, they should be confirmed. That is how Obama has been able to remake the federal bench, and as I noted yesterday, Republicans plan to confirm at least a dozen more district court judges. Take that, Obama!
State of the Union Address
Rather than cower in fear and shame under his repudiated policies, Obama will pound the lectern during his final State of the Union Address on Tuesday night and passionately make the case for his agenda. With Republicans refusing to harness the news cycle against Obama’s Islamic immigration plans, the president will promote refugee resettlement with even more gusto than before. Obama will respond to the GOP’s diffidence with a commensurate degree of confidence and brazenness. Much like every other SOTU address, this one will unlikely be memorable for breaking new ground; he will merely double down on his existing policies without extending an olive branch to the GOP or ceding an inch of ground.
The GOP Agenda
Later this week, the GOP House and Senate conferences will conduct a joint party retreat in Baltimore to hash out their legislative agenda for the year. Watch for talking points to emerge, from this aptly-named retreat, that are completely divorced from the reality we face. Also, watch for Paul Ryan to begin promoting the “criminal justice reform” agenda.
What is striking about the GOP control of Congress is what is noton the agenda. Given the terror attack in Philadelphia last week and the arrest of two more refugees, one would think the GOP would immediately push national security legislation, such as a moratorium on refugees from the Middle East, designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group (just like the British did), or strip citizenship from those convicted of treason and aiding our enemies. One would expect legislation nullifying Obama’s recent executive action on visas. One would expect Republicans to promote existing legislation abolishing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) (H.R. 1329) in light of Obama’s executive action to empower that officious agency to go after peaceful gun owners and traders. Or better yet, a bill (S. 498) to allow individuals to carry concealed handguns across state lines.
Yet, none of the aforementioned items are on the menu. The GOP will either promote Obama’s agenda, focus on banal issues, or even when they promote good standalone legislation they tend to push those bills when they no longer matter or use them to distract from more pressing issues. Here are some key examples:
If you’ve read this far, it’s not hard to understand why so many voters are looking for something new and supporting Donald Trump, despite his quirky and often liberal views. Thursday night’s GOP debate in South Carolina will provide the other candidates with an opportunity to catch up to Trump by demonstrating they can fill this void—that they can close the intensity gap as it relates to passionate support for ideas that will countermand the Obama transformation of America. The debate location of Charleston, South Carolina will be critically important because it is very likely that the Palmetto State will have the most influence in determining the nominee, especially if Iowa and New Hampshire split between Cruz and Trump.
Most strikingly, listen carefully to the discussion of the debate and you will see just how different their focus is relative to the GOP’s legislative agenda. Facing the voters tends to do that!
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.