Last Friday, under a Republican majority led by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the House of Representatives rejected a trillion-dollar farm bill infused with crony-capitalist handouts and weak, counterproductive “work requirements” for food stamp welfare. That was a victory for free marketers, fiscal responsibility, and good government — and so, of course, the response from the Republican Party is fury, finger-pointing, and rumors of rebellion, because the priorities of this party are that screwed up.
Leadership wanted the farm bill to pass. One account in Politico reports that Ryan’s team thought the House Freedom Caucus would cave at the last minute and drop its opposition to the farm bill. The thirty-something conservatives in the caucus were threatening to vote against the farm bill and defeat it with Democratic opposition because leadership had not delivered on promises to bring up the bare minimum of conservative immigration legislation for a vote. Leadership thought it could call the conservatives’ bluff with more promises. The Freedom Caucus more or less said “fool me once” and followed through on its threat.
The bill died, and now the long knives are out for Paul Ryan.
“Obviously the House Freedom Caucus is to blame, but this is the problem when you have a lame duck speaker who announces he’s leaving eight months in advance,” one “senior Republican source” told Politico. “He can make calls to members to urge them to vote for something, but who will care?”
Over at the Weekly Standard, Haley Byrd reports talk of a “coup” being organized to force Ryan out and install House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker. Even President Trump reportedly thinks there is “merit to the plan.” At the same time, a source told Axios that dissatisfied
moderate progressive Republicans are “showing a new willingness to defy leadership” as several pro-amnesty lawmakers seek to force a vote to codify DACA amnesty.
Ryan’s defenders lamented that the Freedom Caucus is the source of the chaos and that its members’ “purpose in life is to screw with leadership and sink reasonable legislation.” So, the House is in chaos, with the Freedom Caucus pointing fingers at leadership, the RINOS rebelling, and leadership blaming the Freedom Caucus for making the House “ungovernable.”
This circus act could have been entirely avoided if Republican leadership had kept its promise to bring the Goodlatte immigration bill to the floor for a vote. Sure, the bill would have failed. But a vote on real conservative immigration priorities would have put every Republican lawmaker on record, just in time for Republican primaries. But see, that is why there was no vote. Leadership did not fulfill its promise to conservatives because there are many pro-amnesty liberals in the party, and a tough vote would hurt their chances for re-election.
The Freedom Caucus conservatives understand that this tactic of avoiding controversial votes actually hurts the GOP. Republicans need to give conservatives a reason to turn out for them in November if they expect to keep control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. If congressional Republicans won’t take stands on conservative priorities, what’s the point of voting for them? Why turn out?
The sad fact is that if Paul Ryan is forced out, it won’t be because he failed to get conservative bills passed, but because he couldn’t organize his conference to pass liberal bills. Too many GOP lawmakers are more upset that the farm bill’s massive spending and handouts failed than that the border remains unsecure.
Until Swamp Republicans change their priorities, conservatism will not advance in this party. And Swamp Republicans will not change their priorities until they start losing primaries.
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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