Why there’s no better time for a budget fight than now — BEFORE the election

· August 2, 2018  
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Donald Trump
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post | Getty Images

Will he or won’t he? Every day, we see a different side of Trump’s vacillation over whether to use his veto power to leverage his immigration priorities in the budget. Clearly, his heart is telling him to keep his promise and fight for our security and sovereignty, but the swamp, some of which he brought into his own White House, is telling him to go along to get along and pass another Democrat budget. He’d be wise to follow his heart.

It’s now or never

Imagine a team down by two touchdowns headed into the fourth quarter that says, “let’s not throw the ball and make big plays because that might risk an interception. We wouldn’t want to lose the game, would we?”

That is the attitude of GOP leadership in a nutshell and that will be the outcome of the 2018 elections if the conservative movement doesn’t wake up. Among many important political matters, pressuring the party and encouraging the president to force our immigration imperatives in the most important issue of the next two months.

When the president suggested earlier this week that Congress finally pass a budget with conservative priorities, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the third-ranking Republican in the Senate retorted, “We understand he wants wall funding and we all get that, but I don’t think there’s any appetite up here for anything … that would create problems for government funding.” McConnell said that there were “disagreements” preventing him from passing…you know…a budget reflective of his party’s platform and the president’s campaign promises.

Here is the question Republicans won’t answer: What is the purpose of voting Republican if they will do absolutely nothing with control of all three branches, allow the courts to break our borders (and give Democrats victories on every other important issue), and refuse to galvanize their base to match the growing intensity of the Left? Moreover, what will change after the election? Republicans will never get 60 votes in the Senate. Therefore, if they don’t fight now, they will never fight in the future. Frankly, without leadership from Trump, they wouldn’t fight for conservatives even if they had 80 seats.

The timing is right, the issue is ripe, and the president’s bully pulpit reigns supreme

We were told during the Obama era that a GOP Congress could never win a budget brinkmanship against the bully pulpit of the president. Now they have the presidency. What has changed? What party is incapable of getting at least most of their budget priorities with control of all three branches?

The answer is that their priorities are really the Democrats’ priorities. This is why they came up with the scam of fighting “the next time” with every single budget battle since Republicans took over the House in 2011, the Senate in 2015, and the White House in 2017. It’s this perfidy for which Trump was elected to end. People want to fight NOW.

Unfortunately, the president has capitulated in every budget battle and signed bills that ignored his spending and border priorities in April 2017, September 2017, December 2017, the February 2018 debt ceiling betrayal, and the March 2018 omnibus. Like Lucy with Charlie Brown and the football, he promised he’d never give in again. Well, here we are with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas reporting that the president has indeed capitulated again.

If you believe that something will change next year, then you deserve the government we have.

Here’s the stark reality: Whereas Democrats put what they believe are their best issues front and center precisely before an election, Republicans avoid our issues like the plague and punt them until after an election, which is code word for never. This is why Democrats win budget fights even when they control a minority of one chamber.

Which brings us to the here and now. Trump continues to publicly equivocate over that deal with Senate leaders because it is rightfully weighing on his conscience. This was quite evident during his interview with Rush Limbaugh yesterday.

To that end, here’s what Trump should do to turn around the narrative:

  1. An effective budget fight must only be about one issue at a time. It’s OK not to fight on spending, abortion, health care, and immigration all at once and, yes, some of that can be pushed off until later provided that you fight for at least one of them now. Clearly, the most pressing issue, and the issue Trump campaigned on, is immigration and that is the easiest to message and use to galvanize voters before the election. Trump should tweet out every day that he will veto any budget bill that does not fix the problems with the asylum/Central American youth invasion, sanctuary cities, the courts, and provide the proper funding and authority for the border wall and interior enforcement.
  2. Trump should call Congress back from the summer recess a week or two before Labor Day and declare that he is irreversibly committed to finally protecting our borders. He should deliver a speech before Congress making the case that drugs, gangs, and criminal aliens are endangering our communities and demand action under threat of a veto. Let the American people see Democrats sitting on their hands during the speech when he applauds apprehension of gang members and drugs and praises law enforcement. The drug crisis is a huge issue across America. A comprehensive safety, security, and sovereignty agenda is the perfect way to bring back suburban voters who are leaving the party and re-energize some of the blue-collar voters Trump converted in 2016.
  3. Then, make the Democrats own their radical anarchist base. This will frame the entire election on Trump’s most favorable turf, rather than having the Democrats frame it all around the Russia allegations and everything related to Mueller. This issue will bring out the unhinged anarchism of the Democrat base with calls to abolish borders and immigration laws. Every day, Trump should shame them as “the coalition of MS-13 and fentanyl.” The RNC put out a solid ad on this issue a few months ago, but they need to follow up on it and run similar ads against every vulnerable Democrat throughout September.
  4. The president has felt stymied by the growth of the filibuster on every other issue as well. Now is his time to use his only leverage – the veto – to force a discussion on reforming the use and scope of the filibuster and the tools to get around it. As of now, McConnell and his allies will never act, but this dynamic changes the minute Trump makes it clear he will not blink in a budget fight. This is the only way to change the arc of his presidency after the election by having the leverage to pass other priorities on welfare, health care, and legal immigration changes. Until and unless he is willing to use the veto and bully pulpit on major bills, he has no leverage to force changes to the filibuster.

Republicans will never get another opportunity where there is so much of a need to address a winning issue, they have this much power, and when the need for pursuing the issue is so great. They need this national discussion before the election, not after the election.

The reality is that, for better or worse, the traditional GOP base will continue showing up despite the party betrayals simply because they are deathly scared of Nancy Pelosi. But that is not enough to win an election because the Democrat base is larger. They need the Trump voters, particularly in the Midwest aka the nontraditional GOP voters that are fed up with both parties. As pollster John McLaughlin recently told Senior Policy Director at the Conservative Partnership Institute, Rachel Bovard, there’s strong evidence that turnout from disenchanted Trump voters is sharply down in critical states.

The president faces the most important choice before him on a domestic policy issue that effects our national security like no other. Either he becomes the president to finally force changes to our border, successfully galvanizes the voters, and changes the trajectory of the election, or he passes another Democrat budget and ensures Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel of impeachment in January.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.