The president must confront a grim reality. The majority of Congress will never support his historic budget proposal. Congress will never support his campaign agenda on crime, drug trafficking, immigration, or the border, either. He is unlikely ever to get 60 Republicans in the Senate, much less 60 conservatives, even in a potential second term of office. So how will he manage to check these campaign promises off his list?
The answer lies with one word: Veto. He must learn to love it and use it, especially for budget bills or other legislation that the political establishment deems as “must pass.”
As we noted during the omnibus fight, the president has yet to veto a single bill or even seriously threaten it. All of his deterrent power lies in harnessing the veto threat early and often while using the bully pulpit every day to shame Congress on spending and the border/sanctuary mayhem until they pass a budget codifying a significant number of his priorities.
In order to achieve this goal, Trump must negotiate with Congress the same way he is negotiating with the North Korean leader. As Rudy Giuliani said, Kim Jong Un begged for a summit “on his hands and knees.” Trump needs to stop begging Congress to pass his bills, thereby forcing him to agree to amnesty in return. He needs to play his cards and make Congress beg for his signature. He could begin this strategy now by laying out ironclad and specific demands for the budget, threatening a veto every day from now through the summer, using the bully pulpit to shame Congress on the underlying issues, and be willing to pull the veto trigger. This is the only way to drain the swamp.
After Trump reluctantly signed two consecutive budget bills increasing spending and jettisoning his immigration priorities, he promised he would “never again” sign bills like that. Well, Congress is already crafting fiscal year 2019 appropriation bills that continue the spending levels of the omnibus for non-security programs and do not contain his border and immigration priorities. We need an immediate course correction led by an aggressive veto threat.
Which brings me to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s decision to keep the Senate in session for most of August recess. This decision is only worthwhile if senators spend the month passing budget bills that reflect the president’s priorities. To simply pass some individual appropriation bills for the sake of it is worthless.
To that end, the president should demand of McConnell and Ryan a two-step approach. First, they should pass a security package that funds the military, veterans, and homeland security. This must be severed from the general non-security spending fight so that it can’t be used as a hostage, and it must begin now so that Trump can spend weeks using the bully pulpit to promote a safety and security agenda. At a bare minimum, the bill must fund the full border wall and more ICE agents, defund sanctuary cities, and close all of the supposed loopholes for asylum and phony “unaccompanied” minors. Ideally, it should include a provision barring lower federal courts from adjudicating immigration cases. Again, this should all be packaged with the defense bill because what is national defense for if we have no homeland?
The president should demand that McConnell discuss sanctuary cities and the border surge every day of the August recess. Trump should give a speech to Congress on the issue and weekly televised addresses, along with holding rallies on the border with victims of the drug crisis, MS-13, and criminal aliens. He should hammer home the point that the border surge, amnesty agenda, and sanctuary cities are single-handedly responsible for the entire post-2013 epidemic of drugs and gangs. Trump should direct the GOP campaign apparatus to build upon the infamous MS-13 ad and pressure vulnerable Democrats such as Bill Nelson, Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown, Joe Donnelly, and Bob Casey with them every day. Hammer them on the meth, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl crisis brought in by amnesty, sanctuaries, and criminal alien drug cartels, all protected by the incumbents. Make the first budget bill all about safety and security.
But how can the president control the legislative branch of government? you might ask. Very simple. Threaten a veto every day during his morning Twitter rant. And then he should veto a bill. The jailbreak bill, about which proponents have lied and misled people including the president, would be a great start and would show he is serious about being tough on drug crime.
The president is being told that he must negotiate with the MS-13 Republicans pushing the discharge petition for amnesty and that because they have the votes to pass it out of the House, we have no choice but to agree to amnesty to try to get something in return. Not at all. The president needs to threaten that he will veto any amnesty bill. He should publicly and privately direct Mitch McConnell not to bring the bill to the Senate floor, either. So, let it pass the House. Fine. Then use his leverage on the appropriation bills to get what he wants and shame every one of the MS-13 Republicans by name every day of the week.
As long as the president makes it clear that he will make this the Democrat/RINO MS-13 government shutdown, it will pressure McConnell to limit fake non-talking filibusters on budget bills.
After dealing with the military and security in July and August, Trump can reserve September for a fight exclusively over non-security spending without the hostage of the military. The surging debt is preventing him from taking the good economic news to the next level.
Finally, the president needs to get involved in primaries and support only those who will push for his campaign agenda while defeating those undermining it. You can’t drain the swamp without actually reducing the supply of muck.
The promise to fight “the next time” is getting old. The fight is right now, and it begins with the use of the mighty veto pen.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.