The Morning Jolt

The Freedom Caucus Needs a Clearer Set of Goals, and a Leader to Enact Them

Let’s begin with a rare moment of strong disagreement with Hugh Hewitt, in his appearance on Meet the Press Sunday. Start with Hewitt’s opening comment/observation to Representatives Dave Brat of Virginia and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania:

A pox on both your wings. I am very and desperately hoping that Paul Ryan is praying about it and accepts this and here’s my question. Yesterday a Russian jet was set down in Turkey. Yesterday almost 100 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey. The world is on fire. How dare you, with the American people waiting for leadership, paralyze the House? Charlie, you have to stop going on CNN and blasting David. And David, there are like 15 of you people. The Freedom Caucus is, like, 15 people. Paul Ryan’s is like by 225 Republicans. Get with the program, guys.

What a jumble! Our Ian Tuttle took Hugh to task.

For what it’s worth, the Freedom Caucus has about 40 members.

But the Freedom Caucus has its own problems. Here’s Dave Brat, when asked, “What is it that you want, and what is it that Speaker Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, and Eric Cantor haven’t delivered?”

Well, they all ran on a pledge to America. And just like your 72 percent of the folks out there in the real world, say, “We make these promises when we run, but then when we get up here, we’re called ‘unrealistic’ by the Washington establishment and the bubble up here.” What we want is what the American people want.

We have $19 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. All federal revenues will be spent in 11 years on just entitlement programs and interest on the debt. There will be not one dollar left for the military, education, transportation, and all of running government. So the American people want us to make progress on that.

Okay, what’s the threshold of “progress”? Because by most measuring sticks, the annual deficit has dropped dramatically since the GOP took over Congress.

The U.S. budget deficit for the fiscal year 2015, which ended in on September 30, was $435 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The 2015 deficit was lower than the $483 deficit in 2014, and much lower than the trillion dollar plus deficits of 2008-2012. The deficit has declined from 10% of GDP in 2009 to about 3% in 2015. Recent progress in reducing the deficit has been boosted by the spending sequester and tax increases of 2013.

How much lower do you think spending can go with Barack Obama as president? Brat mentioned the ticking time bomb of entitlements, but to you realistically envision President Obama signing any major entitlement reform into law other than tax hikes? Can you imagine any scenario where he approves raising the retirement age or reducing benefits?

Back to Brat’s comments:

Plus, President Obama, when I came in last year in November, we had the unconstitutional amnesty. Our leadership said we were going to fight tooth and nail on that thing. It’s unconstitutional. President Obama said it 20 times on TV. Then you have overreach on all sorts of Dodd-Frank on the financial side, EPA regulation, a bad Iran deal. The people say, “Hey, step up and make the case for us.” And so that’s what we want to do.

On immigration, Obama’s much-derided amnesty program is on hold. In February, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sided with Texas and 25 other states challenging the programs and temporarily blocked enforcement of Obama’s executive orders on deportation. The administration appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit based out of New Orleans, and that court heard arguments in July. We’re still waiting for a decision there.

Pro-amnesty voices aren’t expecting a victory:

Compounding the frustration of delay, there’s little doubt about what this panel is going to do — it’s all but certain to uphold Hanen’s injunction. We know that because in May, two of the three panel judges, Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod — both Republican appointees — refused to temporarily lift Hanen’s hold on the administration’s immigration actions reasoning that “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction.”

Unless the 5th Circuit rules soon — like in the next two or three weeks — it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court will be able to decide the case before June 2017.

Which means there are three ways for the currently-on-hold executive orders to be rescinded. First, the next president could issue an executive order rescinding Obama’s order; the next president and Congress could enact a law that effectively overwrites it, or the Supreme Court could rule that it is unconstitutional.

Finally, if you think of Kevin McCarthy as the epitome of inside-the-Beltway RINO squishiness, and Dave Brat, conqueror of Eric Cantor, as the epitome of authentic outside-the-Beltway real-conservative values . . . what do you make of this exchange?

CHUCK TODD:

Are you okay with Kevin McCarthy staying as majority leader?

REP. DAVE BRAT:

Yeah, absolutely. We have good talks with him. He came and talked with us. The whole conference is making great progress toward these reforms we’re talking about, getting back to regular order. Kevin was, “Yes, yes, yes” on that. So the talking points that we’re in this war, it’s overblown. Get to the facts.

Speaker Marsha Blackburn? Speaker Peter Roksam?

It could happen:

[House Freedom Caucus founder Representative Jim] Jordan told Fox News Sunday that his group’s candidate is still Representative Daniel Webster, the 66-year-old from Florida who served as speaker of the Florida House in the 1990s before being elected to Congress in 2010.

“Our position right now is we know Daniel Webster,” Jordan told Chris Wallace on Fox. “We know he’s done this in Florida, where he took a model that was so controlled, top-down, centralized kind of power model. He diffused that kind of power and empowered the members.

So I think that’s the model we want. I think whoever the next speaker is, Paul Ryan or anyone else, has to go to that kind of model.” But the idea of Ryan as speaker is meeting resistance from conservatives who recall his support of comprehensive immigration reform, the bank bailouts that followed the 2008 financial crisis, and the pro-union legislation that pleased constituents in his blue-collar district in Wisconsin.

Two names keep cropping up in conversations with GOP members: Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois.

How Far Out Is Bernie Sanders? This Far Out . . .

Bernie Sanders on Meet the Press yesterday:

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. Are you a capitalist?

BERNIE SANDERS:

No. I’m a Democratic Socialist.

You’ll be seeing more of that quote, no doubt.

This quote from Sanders jumped out at me: “Unless people are organized and politically conscious in a way that does not exist today, we are not going to transform America the way we have to.”

There’s that “transform America” phrase again. Hearing Sanders say that is the single biggest and most powerful argument for apathy I’ve ever heard. Anyone else see that quote and remember Michelle Obama at the height of Obama the Messiah mania?

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Oh, and anyone whose job depends upon U.S. exports, or whose quality of life stems from foreign imports, note this exchange:

CHUCK TODD:

So basically, there’s never been a single trade agreement this country’s negotiated that you’ve been comfortable with?

BERNIE SANDERS:

That’s correct.

ADDENDA: Happy Columbus Day! If the NFL had been particularly politically incorrect, they would have had the Washington Native Americans play tonight. 

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