As we forge ahead to the new legislative session, it is important that we internalize the lessons of the dismal failures from last session.
Most of the dominant and sundry legislative battles last year can be explicated by the inane cycle of Republican capitulation. It goes something like this:
Democrats propose some odious and profligate legislative idea or budget bill. Conservatives advocate that we uproot the entire premise of the destructive legislation by drawing a line in the sand on the principles that got us elected. Republican leaders eschew conservative principles and acquiesce to the premise that the Democrat legislation or budget is a priority too big to fail. They telegraph the message to Democrats that they will never let the budget bill or stimulus proposal fail, but promise to make them pay for it with reforms or other spending offsets.
Inevitably, Democrats unite against the GOP leadership proposal, and we are left with the GOP caving on the spending without the offsets. Then they unequivocally swear to stick it to the Democrats during the next budget battle by finally utilizing their leverage. Repeat and rinse and needed. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
The overarching lesson is that once you emphatically communicate to Democrats that you will ultimately pass their legislation or you will never take the budget fight or the debt fight to the brink, you have already lost the battle. You can garrulously demand concessions and spending offsets until you are blue in the face, but Democrats will wait you out until the deadline. Once you give away your leverage, there is nothing left to fight for.
It was through this fatuous cycle of insanity that we gave up our biggest trump card; the ability to block debt increases. Obama will get a lifeline of $1.2 trillion until after the elections, yet there is nothing we can do about it.
While only 66 House Republicans voted against the Budget Out-of-Control Act, there are signs that many others are beginning to catch onto the cycle of capitulation. It was evident during the year-end fight over the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension. Members who intuitively desired to do the right thing, yet were intimidated by the acerbic coercive tactics of leadership, are now willing to stand and fight this year. They realize that after a full year of the “Tea Party Congress,” we have not cut one cent from discretionary budget authority, even as mandatory entitlement spending continues to grow unchecked. They realize that we are not any closer to repealing Obamacare than we were in 2010.
This year, there will be numerous opportunities to fight statism; from blocking long-term unemployment and green energy tax credits to battles over surface transportation and the federal gasoline tax. By far, the most consequential battle will be fought over the FY 2013 budget, which will commence during the middle of April.
It’s not enough to merely introduce a virtuous budget resolution in April. If Republicans have no gumption to fight for some or most of the major provisions in the budget, all of Paul Ryan’s work will be worthless, as it turned out to be in 2011. The Republican Conference must unite behind two or three transformational reforms – or even one reform – in the budget resolution, and fight to the bitter end. Then, they must convey the message to Democrats that they will not budge, even as the clock ticks midnight on October 1.
Republicans must also refuse to negotiate with the Senate until Democrats pass a budget, along with every subsequent appropriations bill under regular order. No more omnibus megabus bills – for real, this time. Republicans must fight it out over every individual bill, exposing Democrats for their wasteful spending and harmful government regulations every step of the way.
The best New Year’s resolution for Republicans is to promise not to exemplify the definition of insanity. It’s not too late to begin abiding by the Pledge to America, even if it is a year late.
The House is back in session this week, while the Senate returns next week. Especially with the presidential election rapidly deteriorating, the legislative session is ‘game on’ for conservatives.