House Republicans are unveiling their next short-term continuing resolution today to keep the government from shutting down on March 18. It is a three week-extension, $6 billion in cuts with no new policy riders.
Sound good? It’s not. Realize what is going on here. House Leadership unfortunately continues to be gripped by fear of a government shutdown. It is why these short-term extensions do not include any new policy riders, such as the one to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood or to defund Obamacare. These extensions are carefully calibrated to not prompt a veto threat from the White House.
By fearing a fight that could lead to a shutdown, House Leadership is letting the White House play rope-a-dope with them. The House has spoken. It passed a long-term bill that includes $61 billion in cuts and various aforementioned riders to defund objectionable activities of the federal government. This bill was based on a promise to the American people that Republicans would make a down-payment in the face of a staggering $1.5 trillion deficit, and when the Speaker said, “Read my lips,” he was promising a real fight. Not this.
Republican Leadership already threw all the riders over board by excluding them from the first extension, showing that for all their talk they are fundamentally unserious about defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare. With every short-term resolution, Republicans allow Democrats to play for time. With each dollar the Democrats agree to with these short-term compromises, they look more reasonable for the day when they will inevitably say, “No mas.” When that day comes, Republicans will fold. They may try to obfuscate and blur this fight with the next one on the debt limit, but Republicans will still be folding. It will project weakness, and the Democrats will unmistakably recognize it for what it is: fear. And if Republicans blink in the face of a government shutdown, it will set the course for the next two years of dealing with Obama, particularly with regard to the debt limit fight.
So far the freshmen class is complicit in this dead-end strategy by allowing it. They have the votes to tell their Leadership no. But so far, they refuse. They have refused to fight to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood in these negotiations, and they are giving their Leadership far too much flexibility to avoid a fight. In doing so, they are empowering Leadership and letting themselves be co-opted. The freshmen need to realize that Leadership never plays to win—they play to not lose. But we didn’t send them to Washington to play for ties. Make no mistake. The soul of the freshmen class is on the line in this fight.
The rope-a-dope must end. The other side continues to block the bare minimum of what our nation needs fiscally and play for time, fresh off an election that went squarely against them. Republicans gave them two additional weeks to compromise. The Democrats’ chief negotiator, Vice President Biden, used that precious time to fly across the world. They are unserious, and it’s time to call them on it.
Call your Congressmen and urge them to vote against any further short-term extensions and to stand for H.R. 1 as it passed the House. Tell them not blink.