President Trump needs to face an inconvenient reality. With GOP leadership refusing to make any modification to the practice of the filibuster, any part of his campaign agenda, especially the conservative components, is dead on arrival legislatively. The courts, with their ill-gotten supremacy through nationwide injunctions, are voiding most of the things he is accomplishing administratively. Forcing a showdown in the upcoming budget bill next week is his last opportunity to excite the base and create a narrative for the midterm elections. Absent positive accomplishments, those midterms could be a disaster.
Thus far, Democrats have unprecedentedly won the first two budget battles of Trump’s presidency, even though they are a minority in Congress. We were told that FY 2017 was already old hat and that the real fight would be for the FY 2018 budget. Well, with the January 19 budget deadline approaching, it’s now or never for implementing the campaign agenda.
To that end, President Trump should set out a clear list of objectives for what should and should not be in a budget that merits his signature. He should threaten a veto of any budget that doesn’t incorporate the following priorities:
1) Funding for the wall: Democrats want to threaten a government shutdown over amnesty? The best defense is a good offense. Trump should respond by threatening a veto of any budget bill without enforcement. Trump must make it clear that this is not his personal pipe dream. This was a promise made to the American people in 2006 to build 850 miles of double-layered fence, yet only 36 miles have been completed. Chuck Schumer voted for it at the time and has no leverage to oppose it now that he’s the minority leader. The president must demand long-term funding for a significant portion of the fence as a minimum for negotiations.
2) Defund sanctuary cities: Sanctuary cities should have seen their federal law enforcement grants disappear a long time ago. But the urgency is even more potent now that federal courts are siding with lawbreakers and creating an entitlement for states and cities to obtain law enforcement grants. Trump must demand that congressional Republicans buttress his effort to protect Americans by denying grant funds to sanctuaries. Let Democrats run on shutting down the government to harbor sanctuary cities and criminal aliens.
3) Defund Planned Parenthood: How could any private entity be entitled to federal funding, much less one under criminal investigation for harvesting baby organs in addition to performing abortion on demand? Yet, one year into GOP governance, there is not even a scintilla of debate over defunding Planned Parenthood. It’s now or never.
4) Defund dangerous immigration: It’s been almost a year since Trump took the most basic step, pursuant to law and his Article II powers, to protect our security and sovereignty from European-style immigration invasion from the Middle East. Yet, to this day, most of it is still perceived as blocked by the courts. It’s time for Congress to show the courts who is boss and prohibit funding for the issuance of visas to those countries on the list of Trump’s immigration moratorium. In addition, Congress should prohibit funding for the diversity visa lottery.
5) End “transgender” masochism in the military: It is downright offensive that both parties are focused like a laser beam on the spending level for the military and not on the policies within the military. It’s the policies that matter more. What is the purpose of funding a military if we turn it into a freak-show social experiment during such a perilous time? Courts are now mandating that Trump admit masochists and actually pay for castration “surgery” and all of the ancillary social and fiscal costs of such self-maiming. Trump should demand the inclusion of the Hartzler amendment, which would prohibit the Pentagon from paying for any costs associated with castration. Again, policy matters more than spending figures.
All of these items might sound like a tall order, but Trump has no choice. The reality is that, buttressed by a D+14 generic ballot lead, Democrats will filibuster any bill with even one provision that slightly affects their priorities. Republicans must either be willing to message through a shutdown and/or modify the filibuster to pass even a single priority. Once they are doing that, Trump as may as well throw in all his priorities, give the people a bold contrast and a narrative for re-electing Republicans, and actually change the polling.
A budget is not just about spending figures. It is a reflection of the policy priorities and values of a government. With the GOP in full control, there is no reason why Republicans should not get everything or almost everything they claim to support the same way the Democrats got everything they wanted in 2009-2010. Some will contend that they lack such power because they don’t have 60 votes in the Senate. But Democrats most certainly lack 60 votes in the Senate, along with control of the presidency and the House. It’s time for a showdown on these bedrock issues to energize the GOP base and to actually convey a narrative of policy and an agenda to swing voters – a narrative that is currently absent.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.