Why Republicans Need Different Leadership In Congress

National Review Online posted a story today at The Corner accusing House leadership lying to Republicans to get votes.

The article reports:

Representative Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.) accused House Republican leadership of reneging on a deal made with him to get his support on a crucial procedural vote that almost killed the $1.1 trillion cromnibus funding bill.

“I was very surprised and even more disappointed to see the cromnibus back on the floor,” Stutzman said in a Thursday evening statement. “The American people deserve better.”

Stutzman was one of the last Republicans to cast his ballot in favor of a rule allowing the House to vote on the cromnibus. National Review Online reported that Stutzman backed the rule at the last minute after leadership told him that they would pull the bill, once the rule was passed, and replace it with a short-term continuing resolution favored by rank-and-file conservatives. With the last-minute help of Stutzman and outgoing representative Kerry Bentivolio (R., Mich.), leadership won the vote 214–212.

“I supported the rule because I was informed by leadership that the cromnibus was dead and a short term CR would take its place,” Stutzman said. 

Admittedly, it would have been a huge black eye for the Republican leadership if the rule had not passed, but lying to fellow Congressmen is just wrong–regardless of which side of the aisle you are on. The House of Representatives passed a bad bill–it does not represent what the American people voted for. However, the people the American people voted for are not yet sworn in to Congress. Hopefully when they arrive, they will make a difference.

Advice From A Knowledgeable Source

Townhall.com posted an article today by Hugh Hewitt giving advice to the outgoing Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Hewitts advice is simple:

First, do not cut the expected hike in the military housing allowance or increase the deductible applicable to medical services for military families on active duty. I would hope the GOP learned its lesson last year that your base is deeply committed to the proposition that the active duty and retired-career military should be the last category to receive benefit cuts, not the first in line to get whacked.

…Next, do not vote for a Continuing Resolution that is other than a stop-gap measure. Allowing a lame duck Congress to set spending for the balance of 2015 just after the country voted overwhelmingly to reject the authority of Harry Reid and his allies over that process would itself be a rejection of the people’s vote.

Mr. Hewitt then makes a very prescient prediction:

Look, this president only knows how to do one thing, which is how to make the Congressional GOP look bad –very bad in fact. That is his goal, his entire reason for being for the next 24 months. The president intends to force a shut down next fall, and no matter what you try and do between now and then, he will force that shutdown. The only thing you can do successfully is frame his incipient irresponsibility by quickly passing an updated version of the Ryan Budget –one which removes the sequester from the Department of Defense— and then follow up with the appropriations bills that conform to that budget, communicating every day of the year that you are acting responsibly and the president is refusing to do so.

Be ready. That prediction makes a lot of sense. The President is an expert at convincing the press that he is right when he is wrong. The voters are looking for two things in the new Republican Congress–one is a return to the idea of small, limited government and the second is the developing of a backbone to stand up to a lame-duck President. I am a Republican, and I am waiting for the Republicans to convince me that they are not simply interested in being in control of the bureaucracy, but understand the need to shrink the government and cut spending.

A Different Perspective

On Monday, Peter Beinart posted an article at the Daily Beast about the recent government shutdown with a different perspective than we have heard in the past few days.

Mr. Beinart believes that the shutdown is a Republican victory. He states:

Republicans, being less supportive of federal spending on things like “education, energy and medical research,” were more supportive of the sequester. Indeed, as recently as last month, GOP leaders described locking in the sequester cuts—via a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) that extended them into 2014—as a major victory. In a memo to fellow Republicans on September 6, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor boasted that by “signing a CR at sequester levels, the President would be endorsing a level of spending that wipes away all the increases he and Congressional Democrats made while they were in charge and returns us to a pre-2008 level of discretionary spending.”

…It’s not just that Obama looks likely to accept the sequester cuts as the basis for future budget negotiations. It’s that while he’s been trying to reopen the government and prevent a debt default, his chances of passing any significant progressive legislation have receded. Despite overwhelming public support, gun control is dead. Comprehensive immigration reform, once considered the politically easy part of Obama’s second term agenda, looks unlikely. And the other items Obama trumpeted in this year’s state of the union address—climate change legislation, infrastructure investment, universal preschool, voting rights protections, a boost to the minimum wage—have been largely forgotten.

The end of the shutdown was not a Republican victory–generally speaking, they caved. However, if we have successfully moved the point of baseline budgeting back to pre-TARP levels, that is wonderful. For anyone who is not familiar with baseline budgeting, it is the procedure Washington used to increase spending while claiming that they have cut the budget. If a department’s budget was going to increase 10 percent and only increases 5 percent, that is considered a cut. They are still spending more, but it is considered a cut.

Fiscal responsibility should not be a political issue. Both parties need to realize that we cannot go on printing money forever. I am glad that the shutdown is over and that the World War II veterans will again be able to visit their memorial, but fiscal sanity needs to come to America.

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Doing What They Were Elected To Do

There is some serious hand wringing and semi-hysteria going on right now on the part of Democrats and establishment Republicans about the vote taken in the House of Representatives to fund the government, but not ObamaCare. First of all, I would like to point out that this whole question could have been avoided if Congress had passed a budget at some point instead of relying on continuing resolutions. But I guess that is beside the point.

I am a little concerned about the vote, but there are a few things I have noticed. First of all, two Democrats voted for the defunding and one Republican voted against it. That’s more bi-partisan than most things that happen in the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is elected every two years. They are expected to be responsive to the wishes of the voters and reflect the views of the voters. Well, according to Real Clear Politics (they average everyone else’s polling data), 52 percent of Americans oppose ObamaCare. Thirty-eight percent of Americans support it. (Just for the record, Real Clear Politics also reports that 44 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing and 50 percent disapprove). These are the current numbers.

So, regardless of how you feel about the vote, the House of Representatives is representing the view of the American people. So what about the Senate? The direct election of Senators by popular vote was established by the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Before then, Senators were elected by their state legislatures. They were supposed to represent the interests of their states. Because of the role that money plays in modern politics and the role that parties play, Senators no longer represent their states (or their people for that matter). They represent lobbyists, unions, and big business. Party discipline plays a big role in how they vote (generally speaking, the Democrats are much more disciplined than the Republicans).

There is no way the continuing resolution without funding ObamaCare passes in the Senate. However, the passing of the defunding resolution in the House can be a teaching opportunity to help those who have not been paying attention learn exactly how ObamaCare will impact them. We are already seeing the impact in the reduction of work hours for many people, the loss of company healthcare plans for many people, and the higher premiums for health insurance.

I hope the government does not shut down, but I believe the Republicans in the House were doing their job of representing their constituents when they passed the law funding the government and defunding ObamaCare.

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The Way Forward

The whining has already started–Democrats are accusing Republicans of trying to shut down the government. The charge is based on the fact that the Republicans are trying to find a way to defund ObamaCare. Republicans don’t want to shut down the government–the Republicans don’t have the power to shut down the government–they control one quarter of Congress. The Democrats are the only ones who have the ability to shut down the government, but that won’t stop the media from blaming the Republicans.

The Daily Caller posted a story yesterday that offers a solution to this dilemma. As I said, the Republicans do not have the power to stop ObamaCare, but they are looking for ways to defund it.

The article explains:

Republican Rep. Tom Graves and 42 House cosponsors introduced a budget plan Thursday to defund Obamacare without forcing a government shutdown, placing pressure solely on the shoulders of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Graves’ Security, Stability, and Fairness Resolution is a continuing resolution budget bill that offers a fiscal year 2014 budget that keeps the government open but does not fund Obamacare. The Obama administration has already delayed the law’s employer mandate until 2015, after the 2014 midterm elections.

It makes sense for everyone to delay ObamaCare. It is becoming obvious that the law is not ready for prime time. There have already been delays on several aspects of the law, and according to Townhall.com on September 11, not a single state seems  to be completely ready for ObamaCare.

Politically there are two schools of thought on how Republicans should deal with ObamaCare. The idea of defunding the program is one, but there is another one. Some pundits have suggested that ObamaCare should be allowed to go forward because it will most likely collapse under its own weight. That is a gamble I would rather not take, but if the government does shut down, we can be assured that the media will blame Republicans. Frankly, I would like to see the House adopt Tom Graves’ plan.

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Why The Senate Keeps Passing Continuing Resolutions Instead of Passing A Budget

As a teenager (back in the age of dinosaurs), one of the things I remember is being asked to read the newspaper as a part of high school history class. I was not a news junkie back then, and reading a newspaper (the New York Times was the school’s paper of choice) was a very frustrating experience. When reading the articles, I often felt like someone who walks into the theater in the middle of the movie. Even if I understood the story, I had no clue to the events that had preceded the story. Some of the budget debates in Congress have given me that same feeling.

The Senate has not passed a budget since 2009. Why? Well, it seems that the answer is actually rather simple. About.com has an information page about the 2009 Budget. The page explains that the 2009 Budget created the largest deficit in the history of America ($1.413 trillion). The 2009 Budget was unusually large because of the extra spending needed in the recession. There are some valid questions as to whether that level of spending is still needed since we are supposedly in the midst of an economic recovery. However, by passing Continuing Resolutions rather than a budget, the Senate can continue the levels of spending in the 2009 Budget. Because of the concept of ‘baseline’ budgeting, government spending will be based on the numbers in the inflated 2009 Budget–without any debate on the validity of those numbers. That is the reason for continuing trillion dollar deficits, and it also explains why the Senate has not been willing to discuss or pass a budget since 2009.

We are about to enter a debate on raising the debt ceiling of America. I strongly suggest that the Republicans in Congress (I don’t expect the Democrats to do this, although it would be wonderful if they did.) should demand that the Senate pass a budget before they agree to raise the debt ceiling. If we are going to increase the amount of money given to Washington, we need to know ahead of time how they are planning to spend it. Just one more note on the budget. As Congress continues spend more than it takes in, the Treasury continues to either borrow money or print money. As more money is printed, the value of the money already in circulation decreases. That is one of many reasons the cost of gasoline at the pump is higher than the current cost of crude oil at the pump warrants (It should be noted that the state and federal government make more money on the sale of a gallon of gas than the oil companies that sell the gas). That is one way runaway spending by the government impacts all of us. It is time to take the charge card away from Congress and force them to live within their means.

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