The Weekly Watchman: Kavanaugh is confirmed. Now get back in the fight

· October 9, 2018  
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The House outlook: The lamest of lame ducks

The House of Representatives remains in recess until after the November election. Members are slated to return on November 13 for the beginning of a lame-duck session that every conservative should fear. Lame-duck sessions are those that occur after an election and before the swearing-in of a new Congress. They rarely, if ever, end well for those who love liberty, free markets, and limited government. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to identify a single conservative victory in a lame-duck session in our lifetimes.

In 2010, following the Tea Party wave that swept Nancy Pelosi and Democrats out of power in the House, the lame-duck session repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, extended benefits for the costly unemployment insurance program from 26 weeks to up to 99 weeks of taxpayer-funded benefits, and, in the Senate, ratified the New START treaty with Russia that undermined our nuclear deterrent.

In 2012, following Barack Obama’s re-election, there was an attempt to pass the sovereignty-destroying United Nations treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Fortunately, conservatives both inside and outside the Senate rallied to stop this effort. However, that session locked in tax increases and spending increases under the infamous “fiscal cliff” budget betrayal spearheaded by then-Speaker John Boehner.

In 2014, despite winning the Senate and retaining their House majority, Republicans locked in a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package (sound familiar?) that punted on rolling back President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty to the DACA population (sound familiar?) until February 2015.

In 2016, despite keeping the Senate, keeping the House, and winning the White House, Republicans ignored the advice of outside conservatives to cancel the lame duck and convened a session that locked in Barack Obama’s spending levels one last time and increased spending at the NIH and FDA by $6.3 billion under the guise of finding cures for specific diseases and “fighting” the “opioid” epidemic.

There’s an interesting GAO report on lame-duck sessions from earlier this year detailing all the progressive policy wins that these post-election sessions secure. While that may not have been the intent of the report, an objective reading of it clearly shows that conservatives lose in lame-duck sessions.

So, what exactly do conservatives have to fear from this lame duck? A partial list below:

  • Challenge: The continuing resolution (CR) that extended funding for the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and other federal agencies that Congress failed to appropriate funds to this past year expires on December 7. Opportunity: Congress can fund the border wall, defund sanctuary cities, and attempt to implement policy riders on asylum reform and ending chain migration. Legislators can also begin cutting discretionary spending to address our national debt by refusing to appropriate any taxpayer money to unauthorized programs.
  • Challenge: There is pressure from those interested in releasing felons back onto our streets to take a second pass at “criminal justice reform” during the lame-duck session. Opportunity: The electorate is simply not with the outside groups, often heavily influenced by big-money donors, on this issue. Law-and-order Republicans should kill this bill outright. And at the very least, they should demand major concessions from supporters of jailbreak. This includes, but is not limited to, passage of Kate’s Law, defunding of sanctuary cities, stripping lower courts of jurisdiction on immigration issues, and removal of Title II language that moves toward preventing juveniles from being locked up.
  • Challenge: The $1 trillion food and farm welfare bill has hit a roadblock in the conference process, as Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., feud over who is the most capable profligate spender for pet agricultural subsidies. Conaway wants more taxpayer money to give to cotton growers. Stabenow wants more taxpayer money to give to “urban farmers” and renewable energy programs. Opportunity: Congress can refuse to placate these progressive demands unless stronger work requirements are accepted in the food stamp program and these subsidies are permanently separated and phased out.

Right now, it’s unclear whether the GOP will hold on to the House, but it seems unlikely without a truly energized base and turnout in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh fight.

But does anyone actually believe that this Congress under this leadership team will do what Nancy Pelosi did in the 2010 lame-duck session for progressives and try to secure policy wins before the other party assumes power?

The Senate’s post-Kavanaugh high

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed this past Saturday afternoon in a 50-48 vote. This is good. The vote became a de facto proxy vote to preserve due process, the presumption of innocence, and the constitutional order. Many conservatives have come to view Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, more favorably.

As the Senate comes back into session today, it will be voting this week to spend billions of dollars on pet infrastructure projects under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act. The GOP Senate will seemingly celebrate its hard-earned victory of confirming Kavanaugh by working with the very same Democrats who savaged him in order to saddle the American people with even more cronyism and debt through poorly disguised earmarks.

And conservatives on cable news and radio should not ignore this in favor of the very partisan tribalism that is masking the fact that progressivism continues to win in nearly every policy battle, with the full complicity of the very Republicans being cheered as folk heroes.

Yes, Brett Kavanaugh was a victim of progressive fascism and a violent and rabid tyrannical mob aimed at delegitimizing our institutions and civil society. The Left believes he is the all-important fifth vote that will overturn its sacred and bloody altar of abortion, its disassembling of marriage, and the continued court-ordered onslaught against Judeo-Christian pillars in our republic.

He is unlikely to be. While it’s possible that the Left’s destructive actions will make Brett Kavanaugh something other than the mild textualist he was prior, it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will now strike down the Left’s court-ordained religious sacraments.

First, Chief Justice Roberts is already being viewed as the Court’s new “center.” And there is widespread agreement that he now views his job as ensuring that the Court doesn’t tilt too far one way or the other.

Second, in her long-winded speech defending her vote for Kavanaugh, Susan Collins outlined his support for protecting “pre-existing conditions” and his understanding of the importance of precedent when it comes to Roe and Obergefell. This should be a clue to conservatives everywhere that Kavanaugh is far more likely to be a clone of Chief Justice John Roberts than of Justice Clarence Thomas.

In all likelihood, the Supreme Court is still at least one seat away from a conservative majority. Perhaps that’s a rationale to keep Republicans in the majority in the Senate should another vacancy occur. And yes, the Left’s despicable and hideous antics during the Kavanaugh confirmation are already benefiting Republicans in their bid to hold on to the majority.

But without a serious effort to secure conservative policy wins, to move power out of Washington, and to diminish the scope and reach of the courts in our lives, the furor and passion of Republican senators that we saw on display these past two weeks will eventually give way to the Swamp status quo.

And unless prominent conservative figures who have praised GOP senators for holding the line in this battle move on to the next fight against the tyrannical Left and avoid being distracted by the shiny objects of Lindsey Graham memes and “owning the libs,” it will all have been for nothing.

Liberty outlook

Summary: The House is in recess through the November elections. The Senate remains in session in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh confirmation vote to debate a pork-laden Water Resources and Development bill and to potentially come to an agreement on remaining judicial and executive branch nominees in limbo. This week’s Liberty Outlook is: Code Yellow.

The Kavanaugh storm has passed, but the long-term damage to our institutions and civil society is likely extensive. Conservatives should use the aftermath and current energy to push their representatives to fight with the same passion to secure the border, repeal Obamacare, and rein in our $21.5 trillion national debt.


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, son, and golden retriever, happily clinging to his guns and religion.