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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

The Return of the Lunch Bunch

That didn’t take long. Charlie Bass and other Republican “moderates” are already polluting the new House Republican majority.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Bass—the former head of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which is made up of typically economically and socially liberal Republicans—attempts to balance out the perception that the freshmen are all conservative. He guesses that up to 50 of them will attend Tuesday Group meetings. The Tuesday Group, or the “Lunch Bunch” as it used to be called, is the Congressional sister organization to the Main Street Partnership, and if Bass is correct about the attendance numbers, that is a horrifying sign of things to come.

Another so-called moderate, Charlie Dent said that the Tuesday Group would “help provide some perspective and balance.” Perspective and balance should be read as compromise with liberals, refuse to draw clear distinctions between the parties, and avoid any action that conservatives have long proposed.

According to the article:

The key to keeping moderates in office, centrist lawmakers said, will be for the leadership to recognize that every district is different and to refrain from forcing lawmakers from tough districts into votes they can’t defend back home.

For a moment, ignore the fact that the country faces extremely tough times and needs Congressmen with the courage to take and explain tough votes. Instead, recognize this is the first line of moderate speak—don’t make me take a tough vote. The next line will be that you should not take any tough votes, because it has negative repercussions for me back home, since I have to be associated with all of you knuckle-dragging, conservative Neanderthals. The final pitch will be when they demand the House schedule and pass bad legislation at their behest to save them electorally. Slowly, as the Leadership begins to listen to this incessant chirping, momentum and courage fade and defeatism and status quo reign within the entire Republican majority.  And then you get a wave election of voter dissatisfaction against all Republicans that wipes every one out.

Sound extreme? If you go to the Main Street Partnership’s website, they admit that they were founded specifically to thwart the legislative momentum of the Class of 1994.

The November 1994 mid-term elections were commonly referred to as the “Republican Revolution.” Given the great gains made by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, a group of moderate House Republicans began informal meetings to discuss ways to further a centrist, pragmatic Republican agenda — one that could accommodate bipartisan legislative results. At that time, there was great concern that a dramatic shift to the right was quickly approaching, given the new congressional leadership.

And indeed they did. It was Chris Shays who gave us campaign finance reform in the House. It was Mike Castle who gave us embryonic stem cell research. It was Nancy Johnson who helped write the Medicare prescription drug benefit. It was the Lunch Bunch that blocked budgets that attempted to reign in spending when Republicans were in control.

Many of these moderates will argue that they are fiscally-conservative deficit hawks, and that they have much in common with the tea party movement that just elected them. But ask them whether they’re ready to balance the budget and talk specifics by reforming Medicare and Medicaid and most will likely beg off (as evidence by their votes against the Republican budget last year).  

House Republicans need to reject the wisdom of the Lunch Bunchers—it’s been shown to be bankrupt before and it will again. Voters selected Republicans in droves because they were willing to get spending and government under control. Now is not the time to go soft on them.

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