The Weekly Watchman: Conservatives must protect their own

· October 23, 2018  
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adamkaz | Getty Images
adamkaz | Getty Images

The House outlook: Wheat and chaff

The House of Representatives remains in recess until after the November election. We are now just two weeks away from Election Day and a bevy of new polling suggests some of the more stalwart conservatives in the House are in the political fight of their lives. The latest Cook Political Report shows that the House of Representatives is likely to flip to Democrat control.

While the thought of Nancy Pelosi picking up the speaker’s gavel once again is more than a little stomach churning, the fact remains that Democrat budgets will look little different than the current GOP budgets.

Both budgets have—and will—fund Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, and increase government involvement in education. Both have—and will—fail to defund sanctuary cities. Both have—and will—continue to perpetuate renewable energy subsidies at the expense of our prosperity and cost of living. And both have—and will—continue to fund billions in agriculture subsidies that do little more than line the pockets of big agri-corporations and raise the cost of our food.

So, in many respects, this author’s view on the loss of some Republicans is: good riddance.

Many of the Republicans heading for a defeat on Election Day have extremely liberal voting records—such as Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., and Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J. They were basically Democrats who put an “R” by their name and rode to power on the good will of a now-dormant Tea Party movement that was, at the time, serious about trying to curb our national debt and spending binge.

For those who care about limiting government, addressing our looming debt crisis, implementing healthcare freedom, and preserving our constitutional liberties, these members largely proved to be, at best, dead weight. Many times, they were actively harmful to the aforementioned causes.

For example, Rep. Mike Coffman is one of the primary agitators for amnesty in the House. And Rep. MacArthur was one of the primary obstacles for repealing Obamacare last year as the lead negotiator for the liberal Tuesday Group.

However, there are three members facing tough reelects who have been champions since their election to the House. All are members of the House Freedom Caucus. They have been fighting the bipartisan Washington swamp from the very beginning and are worthy of support.

Member: Dave Brat, R-Va.

First Elected: 2014 (Virginia special election)

Liberty Score: 97%

Policy Strengths: Dave Brat is an economics professor. When he defeated then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a special election in 2014, he sent shockwaves around the political world. He is exceptionally strong on immigration policy, spending, and he has been a leader for creative solutions to balancing the budget. He has also historically had very strong conservative staffers—many of whom have gone on to advance liberty in other Hill offices and outside groups.

Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating is “toss-up.” The latest polling has Rep. Brat in a statistical tie. It’s immensely important to keep him in Congress.

Member: Scott Perry, R-Penn.

First Elected: 2012

Liberty Score: 89%

Policy Strengths: Scott Perry is a former Brigadier General in the Pennsylvania National Guard. He has been a strong behind-the-scenes force for the Freedom Caucus since its inception. He is easily the best member of the Pennsylvania delegation and is exceptionally strong on defense, spending, immigration, and energy issues.

Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating has this race as “lean Republican.” The latest polling has Rep. Perry only up 1 point. It’s critical that Perry, a potential leader of the House Freedom Caucus, remain in Congress.

Member: Ted Budd, R-N.C.

First Elected: 2016

Liberty Score: 95%

Policy Strengths: A gun store owner by trade, Ted Budd has been one of the bright stars for conservatives in recent years. He has great instincts, has hired solid conservative staff, and does what few other members do: live out his conservative principles. He is a strong opponent of cronyism and a leader on energy issues and the Second Amendment.

Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating has this race as “toss-up.” The latest public polling has Rep. Budd up 3 points. It’s important to keep an actual young gun conservative like Budd in Washington.

The “lame duck” agenda

As has been the focus of this column for the past several weeks, the “lame duck” session presents a unique threat to conservatives. Historically, they have resulted in bad policy outcomes across the board. Two years ago, a large number of conservatives and outside groups even called on leadership to cancel the lame duck out of fear for what would happen.

In recent lame duck sessions, we’ve seen trillion-dollar budget betrayals, tax increases, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed, and treaties ratified that undermined our nuclear deterrent against adversaries like Russia.

The GOP should heed the advice of their conservative base and secure policy wins on immigration and border security before the start of the next Congress. With the “migrant caravan” gaining worldwide headlines, and the Los Angeles Times recently confirming that the opioid epidemic is largely due to our porous southern border, there are zero excuses for not securing big immigration policy wins following the election.

If Republicans manage to barely hold on to the House then defunding sanctuary cities and funding the border wall will be essential for building an actual agenda for the 116th Congress that will motivate and energize the base going into the President’s reelection race in 2020.

If Republicans lose, as is expected, then this will be the last chance that Republicans have to make good on a promise before Nancy Pelosi and the Abolish ICE party assume power. Funding the wall and defunding sanctuary cities will be a much-needed morale boost for an American public weary of the cowardice of the Republican Party.

Either way, all of this portends an increasingly favorable position for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has been running a simple but effective campaign to become the next Republican leader in the House. His message of “do what we said we would do” has been gaining traction among the Republican electorate.

So much so that it spooked Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., into pretending to be an immigration hawk.

The good news is that Jordan’s campaign, combined with the looming foreign invasion from the “migrant caravan,” has created a pressure cooker for Republican leadership. Whatever they do—fight or cave—they will lose ground. Be it the actual policy battle to secure our borders or the political battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

The Senate outlook

The Senate is expected to return on November 13 following the elections. While it appears that Republicans are poised to pick up seats following the Orwellian progressive meltdown that spawned fascist left-wing mobs to behave little better than animals, conservatives must not get their hopes up that these new Republican senators will be stalwart fighters for liberty.

In North Dakota, Rep. Kevin Cramer would only have a slightly better voting record than incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. His tenure in the House shows him to be as squishy as they come. The jury is still very much out on challengers to Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as to how strong they really are when it comes to defending and promoting liberty.

There is some hope for conservatives with candidates Matt Rosendale, who is challenging Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who has the backing of both Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., in his bid to unseat Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Rosendale in particular has been surprisingly strong on healthcare, signaling just yesterday that he opposes federal health insurance mandates that have more than doubled our premiums on average since 2013.

This means that much work will remain in channeling the passion that Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., displayed during the Kavanaugh hearings into actual substantive policy wins. Right now, there’s a lot of chatter that the big item the Senate will take up after the election will be “criminal justice reform.”

With millions of Americans suffering from high healthcare costs, diminished access to care, wrecked communities due to the cartel-driven opioid epidemic, and increasing crime due to criminal illegal aliens, moving on to something like jailbreak legislation would be political malpractice of the highest order.

Yes, there are good policy reasons to reform civil asset forfeiture laws, which often infringe on Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. Yes, the increasing militarization of law enforcement is worrisome and should be reversed. Yes, there are many federal crimes that should be left to the states instead.

But the argument advocated by well-heeled institutions on the Right, who have cozied up with progressive forces like the ACLU and Urban Institute, that there are “too many” people in federal prison is absurd on its face.

Most of those serving federal prison sentences are violent offenders. Yes, over 78,000 are serving time in federal penitentiaries because of “drug offenses,” but these are largely for major offenses. For example, many celebrated the release of Alice Johnson earlier this year, but few discussed the fact that she ran a major cocaine trafficking ring and was responsible for all the violence and destruction resulting from that.

She deserved to be in prison.

And the rising number of criminal illegal aliens in federal prisons, now over a quarter of all inmates, suggests that unless and until we get our immigration and border policies right, we should be building more prisons not fewer.

If conservatives were smart, they’d adopt a “tough on crime” agenda as a pillar of a new movement beyond the elections. There are strong advocates of law and order remaining in the Senate, such as Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who understand that Americans want their families, neighborhoods, and communities to be safe.

Our open borders—and the rampant crime emanating from them—is the major domestic policy issue that Congress should and must address in the “lame duck.”

If Republicans immediately advance progressive policies with the likes of Sen. Cory “Spartacus” Booker, Diva-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, Bigger Diva-Calif., especially after the circus they led during the Kavanaugh hearings, it would signal to the conservative base that Republicans still don’t get it.

And likely never will.

Liberty outlook

Summary: Both chambers are in recess through the November elections. This means that neither legislative body can further infringe on our liberties, increase our national debt, or advance progressive priorities for at least another three weeks. Therefore, this week’s Liberty Outlook remains: Code green.

The Weekly Watchman

Welcome to the Weekly Watchman, a regular series at Conservative Review where we highlight and analyze legislation pending on the House and Senate floors so that you know exactly what your representatives are voting on — and the impact those votes will have on your freedom.

The truth is that every single vote cast in Congress either advances liberty or diminishes it. And in all the noise on social media and 24/7 cable news chaos, it can be difficult to keep track of what is really happening on Capitol Hill and what it means for you and your family.

Patrick Henry once stated, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”


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Author: Drew White

Drew White spent three years at Heritage Action for America as a legislative strategist covering domestic policy issues. He then served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s domestic policy adviser for two years, working on issues including Obamacare repeal, educational freedom, elimination of federal agencies and departments, and defunding Planned Parenthood. Most recently, he served as senior federal policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He currently resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife and golden retriever, happily clinging to his guns and religion.