The official Republican vision of political power is so constrained that you have to wonder why they want it.
Senate Republicans Betray the Base
GOP “leadership” are the regime’s loyal opposition.
Senate Republicans are at it again. The Senate vote this past Thursday for a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running through December 23rd passed 71 to 19—with 22 Republicans lending their yeas. The intention is to provide more time to reach an agreement before the year closes out, after which the GOP takes control of the House of Representatives. Getting a bill through to the current Democrat-controlled House of course gives the Left the upper hand in ongoing spending negotiations, ensuring that anything that gets past the split Senate will have to include funding for their ideological pet projects. It seems intuitive that Republicans should refuse to provide significant policy concessions and push to hold out until the changing of the guard in the House.
But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not agree. He told reporters that the deal was “very close” and that he would support a subsequent bill proposed next week so long as it is a “truly bipartisan full-year bill without poison pills.”
What qualifies as “truly bipartisan”? Apparently not amendments like those proposed by Republican Senators Mike Lee and Rick Scott, both of which failed. Scott’s amendment would have taken a shot at IRS funding. Lee’s amendment would have attacked the widespread proliferation of internet porn. Members of the Free Speech Coalition—a non-profit trade association of the pornography and adult entertainment industry in the United States—pleaded with tears in their eyes for the Senate to reject the amendment. “It’s a threat to their [members of the porn industry] business, to their livelihood. It’s a threat to their community,” said Mark Stabile, public affairs director for MFSC and chivalrous defender for the noble members of that poor, marginalized “community.” The Senate clearly concurred, deeming any type of funding related to reducing the ability for citizens to access porn as unnecessary pork—sadly, no pun intended.
Both Lee and Scott ended up voting against the bill. Instead, the type of acceptable bipartisanship is represented by the earmarks that were set aside to guarantee McConnell’s support: $650 million for Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, $511 million for Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, and $490 million for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (the same Lisa Murkowski whose reelection campaign last month had an additional $1 million diverted to it by McConnell, while he simultaneously pulled $8 million from Blake Masters—a man who would have posed the danger of serving as an actual conservative). All Republicans. All yea votes on this past Thursday’s funding bill.
Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council under President Trump, has warned against the inflationary effect of the massive spending being proposed. The current bill stands at $1.7 trillion, with between $150-$200 billion in additional new spending from the FY ’23 baseline. The inflationary effect of massive Dem spending—from Biden’s 2021 COVID relief bill to the CHIPS Act to the misnamed Inflation Reduction Act—will be exacerbated by further unnecessary funds allocated to yet more COVID relief. It will also guarantee (more) massive subsidies for inefficient green energy initiatives. Meanwhile, the oil and gas taps will stay closed—even while the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve remains at a nearly four decade low, as Biden unsuccessfully pleads for the Saudis to increase production.
One doubts whether the Fed’s recent decision to raise interest rates half a point will be enough to address the inflationary impact of the new spending. McConnell has justified his support on the basis of a massive boost in defense spending, which is less than consoling given the tens of billions being sent to Ukraine—at least for those of us who don’t buy his assessment of “a democratic nation beating back totalitarian aggression.” He shares the Hollywood-Washington consensus that the number one U.S. foreign policy priority must be to “make other thugs think twice about following in Putin’s footsteps”—the threat of nuclear war or the fact that Ukraine is a corrupt klepto-state used to launder DC money be damned!
Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has heralded the Republican help in passing the stopgap measure and the highly likely prospect that they will aid in passing a yearlong spending bill. “This is about taking a very simple, exceedingly responsible step to ensure we finish the year without hiccups and with minimal drama,” said Schumer.
Surely no one would want hiccups or drama—besides the Democrats, of course. Schumer’s selective memory is legendary, and it was on display once again when he apparently forgot about his party’s successful effort to force a confrontation over border wall funding in 2018, which just so happened to result in the longest government shut down in U.S. history. When the Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding, Trump announced he would not sign unless the latter was included. After the Republican House subsequently passed a stopgap bill with border wall funding, it was blocked in the Senate by threat of Democrat filibuster.
Unsurprisingly, the media and political pundits did not place the onus on the Left for that shutdown. But more importantly, Dem voters were all for it so long as it blocked increased border security. That is because leaders in the Democratic Party share the lunatic policy positions of its progressive base and legislate in accordance. Conversely, Republican leadership—McConnell in particular—despises its base, believing that they are backwards morons, and does everything that it can to thwart steps to implement actual right-wing positions. To risk sounding cliché, they are RINOs in the sense that they are desperately trying to maintain the Republican Party status of controlled opposition.
And so, Republican leadership will not act strategically to forestall a spending bill favorable to Democrats before the GOP takes over control of the House in several weeks. The southern border will stay wide open, and the number of illegals entering the country will continue to increase every day. Billions upon billions will continue to be spent on appeasing the newly burgeoning Ukraine lobby. The military vaccine mandate will be removed, giving the illusion of a victory for something that should have never existed in the first place.
This is the only type of win Republicans are allowed to have—defensive and reactionary, never working to pass a real conservative agenda.
But there will also not be any shut down. The 22 members of the GOP who voted in favor, and 9 who abstained, will have successfully played their designated role for the amorphous uniparty.
And make no mistake about it: Without a purge of Republican leadership, they will succeed. And the GOP will resume being the party standing athwart history yelling, “Just trans our kids a little bit slower, would ya?”
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.