Football fans, imagine that you’re fourth and 8 on your own 20-yard line with seconds to go in the first half. You’ve just gained a strategic 4-point lead with a touchdown on your previous drive. What do you do? Punt, obviously. And whatever you do, you definitely don’t risk throwing an interception.
That’s probably the best way for conservatives to think about the “clean” stopgap spending proposed to avert a government shutdown over Christmas.
The stripped-down agreement would fund the federal government until January 19. It contains no provisions on the Obamacare insurance bailouts that liberal Republicans and Democrats wanted, no deals on DACA amnesty, and no long-term reauthorization of the federal government mass surveillance program that drew major Fourth Amendment concerns, while moving debates on those issues into the new year.
The House is expected to vote on the measure just before leaving town for the holidays, which would leave the Senate with two options: Take it or leave it.
Some are calling it a “punt,” meant to cast it as a failure as so many others before it have been, but a punt isn’t always a bad thing, if you want to win the game.
Sure, this is a short-term win for the GOP’s tax-cut messaging, but it has much bigger implications for congressional conservatives.
This keeps conservative lawmakers from being forced to accept raw deals on immigration, Obamacare bailouts, and government snooping in order to avoid a government shutdown right before Christmas, which would waylay the party’s celebratory messaging on tax cuts, which could be signed into law right away thanks to a provision in the bill’s last page.
This way, we avoid fake doom-saying about what a government shutdown means. Never mind that a shutdown affects only 17 percent of the federal government. Perennial hysteria pieces from mainstream media outlets about closings at national parks and ruined field trips cloud that reality from peoples’ minds in favor of the manufactured hysteria.
And that hysteria makes for either a bad Christmas, a bad deal, or a “punt.”
This would leave time for an actual debate on these issues — and about how much we’re actually spending — when Congress gets back from the holidays without an impending deadline, rather than just forcing things through with the self-imposed holiday deadline looming. That’ll make it a lot easier to put up an actual fight on the issues.
Going into this fight, the GOP was confronted with the real possibility of throwing an interception on some essential issues. No, it’s not a touchdown or even a first down. But a punt is always better than a turnover.