I awoke this morning after a decent night’s sleep, although many of my fellow free-market conservatives tossed and turned over President Donald J. Trump’s “deal with the Dems.”
The Right’s insomnia over this matter seems excessive and misdirected.
Trump on Wednesday agreed to the proposal of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) to increase the national-debt limit for three months, and attach that to emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey. But just days earlier, conservatives had been wringing their hands in fear that Schumer would turn the debt ceiling into the Democrats’ newest set of brass knuckles.
If not for the high-profile urgency of, in essence, stapling the debt limit to Harvey assistance, the pressing need to re-charge Uncle Sam’s credit card would have given Schumer a fresh way to beat up Republicans. Absent Harvey, Schumer and his band of toughs would have kidnapped the debt limit in exchange for something else, perhaps “DACA or death!” Instead, the debt-limit increase slid through, behind Harvey’s shield, with no last-minute hostage drama.
Trump rejected the offer of House speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to extend the debt limit for 18 months, past the 2018 mid-term elections. This would have removed federal borrowing from the list of issues on which the GOP could have run next year. Obama hiked the national debt from $10.6 trillion to $19.9 trillion — a staggering 87.8 percent. That mess, and how to escape it, would have been a worthy GOP issue. Ryan and McConnell largely would have obviated that opportunity.
Ryan and McConnell’s 18-month proposal also would have deprived Republicans of a priceless “must pass” vehicle to which they could append items that Senate Democrats dislike. The GOP similarly handed Obama multiple long-term debt-limit extensions that prevented Republicans from sending him short-term debt-limit measures that he would have had to sign, notwithstanding amendments that rankled him. Republicans should not deploy the debt limit every month, in order to corner Schumer and Senate Democrats. But mothballing this weapon until spring 2019 smacks of unilateral disarmament.
From all reports, Ryan and McConnell were ready to drop-kick the debt-limit 18 months down the road, in return for . . . nothing. Even worse, as conservatives correctly complain, they did not tie the debt-limit boost to any structural reforms, such as a cap on federal spending as a share of GDP, adoption of the brilliant Penny Plan (which would balance the budget by cutting total spending by 1 percent every year for eight years), a private-sector audit of every federal department and sub-cabinet agency, or even converting Washington’s books from cash-basis to accrual accounting. Ryan and McConnell promised 18 months of borrowing and spending on autopilot. Trump properly rejected such fiscal brain death.
Now, in three months, fiscal conservatives can and should append reformist language to the next debt-limit increase. Ryan/McConnell would have denied them that opportunity until nearly two Easters hence.
As it is, Schumer & Co. still can cause Trump and the GOP tremendous heartburn on the budget, as this fiscal year ends on September 30. But at least their debt-limit bomb has been defused, for now. Republicans will have enough of a challenge battling Democrats on an overall spending plan without having to hear Schumer’s debt-limit IED ticking in the background.
Trump’s deal with Schumer and Pelosi should make it easier to focus on tax reform. The good news is that the president has been stumping for tax reduction and tax simplification, from Springfield, Mo., to Bismarck, N.D.
“We’re going to be switching from a worldwide tax system that encourages companies to keep their funds offshore to a territorial system that encourages companies to bring their profits back home to America, where that money belongs,” Trump said Wednesday, before several oil-storage tanks, at Bismarck’s Andeavor Refinery. (Take that, global warmists!) “But we’ll also dramatically reduce the tax rate for America’s small businesses, which have created more than 60 percent of new private-sector jobs in the recent past.” Trump also said: “Tax relief is on the way for millions of sole proprietors, LLCs, and partnerships who report their income on their personal tax returns.”
Trump said this soon after bringing to the stage several officeholders, including Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.). With the feckless McConnell unable to control his admittedly narrow majority, Trump only can benefit from finding Democrats who will vote for any part of the conservative agenda on which he ran. (And, yes, despite the moans of Never Trumpniks, aside from free trade, Trump campaigned and won on the most conservative platform that Americans have seen since Ronald Reagan. And Trump is implementing it, far more than anyone credits him. Case in point: Thursday’s announced rollback of Obama’s due-process-crushing Title IX “guidance letter” on campus sexual harassment.)
Securing the support of Heitkamp and other non-crazy Democrats on tax reform and other vital measures might show Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska that they have less ability to torpedo Trump, especially on issues such as repealing and replacing Obamacare, on which those very same GOP turncoats competed for and scored their seats.
The worst news facing Republicans is that the Senate parliamentarian ruled September 1 that the reconciliation window to repeal and replace Obama’s hideous health-care legacy slams shut at month’s end. So Senator Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.) has until September 30 to find 51 votes for his plan. It would send much of Obamacare’s budget to the 50 states, where governors and state legislators could undo this catastrophe as they see fit. In fact, Graham — and any other senator(s) with repeal-and-replacement ideas — must get them through the Senate, and then back to the House. It can pass that final measure, as is, and forward it to President Trump. Otherwise, House and Senate conferees must craft compromise language and return it to both chambers for final passage. All before October 1.
These difficult steps must be taken in the next 20 days. And, among those, the Senate will meet for only 13 days, and the House for just eight. In fact, in its latest and most infuriating exercise in sloth, the Republican House will be back on vacation the entire week of September 18. Even worse, in order to prepare for more time off, Ryan plans to gavel the House out on Thursday night, September 14!
The real villains in the Oval Office Wednesday were not Trump or even Pelosi and Schumer. Ryan and McConnell dismissed the federal government’s entire legislative branch for nearly a month and a half of beach-blanket bingo.
“The biggest problem was we didn’t stay here in August and put together a debt-ceiling plan, one that actually addressed the underlying $20 trillion debt burden that we face as a country,” Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) lamented Friday morning on Fox & Friends. “We took the longest August-recess break in a non-election year, the longest break we have taken in over a decade. That’s why the House Freedom Caucus called for, nine weeks ago, back in July — we said, ‘Stay in August. Let’s figure out the debt ceiling. Let’s put together a tax-reform plan, and let’s figure out how we’re going to repeal Obamacare.’ Instead, we went home for almost six weeks.”
The Right’s insomnia over Trump’s deal with the Democrats seems excessive and misdirected.
Rather than keep their promises and answer the burning questions that face the nation, Ryan and McConnell evacuated Capitol Hill and sent their troops to the shore to build sandcastles. “To hell with the debt ceiling, the budget, tax cuts, health care, judicial nominations, and sub-cabinet confirmations — surf’s up!”
For decades, Washington Republicans have been breathtakingly weak. They are scared of the Old Guard media and, despite enjoying putative control of the House, the Senate, and now the White House, they have become terrified of their own shadows. What’s new is that Washington Republicans have become lazy. Louis Armstrong once sang of his native New Orleans, “It’s sleepy time down South.” That tune has become the anthem of Ryan and McConnell’s relentlessly drowsy Republican Congress.
Perhaps President Trump’s deal with the Democrats — which gave him momentum this week and did nothing to hinder his major priorities — will serve as an introductory supply of Five-Hour Energy Drink. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell should chug a few of those daily, keep their caucuses at work, and do their damn jobs already.
–– Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.