Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Divided government limits Republicans

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Waukesha Freeman 10/8/2015 Page A6 Opinion

Divided government limits Republicans
Republicans should be wary of easy promises

Senator Ron Johnson spoke at a recent Waukesha County Republican Party “Pints and Politics” gathering, this time in Sussex. The capacity-filled room listened to the senator give an informal talk about politics, Washington DC, and the importance of next year’s election.

Johnson told his audience that he was frustrated, too, with the failure of Republicans to achieve their goals in Washington. He remarked that he was more frustrated than anyone in the room.

However, Johnson also pointed out that some Republican frustration is the result of inflated expectations. Some conservative organizations raise expectations beyond what is possible, although Johnson did not name who they were.Johnson could have also pointed to some of his colleagues in both houses of Congress that also have an inflated belief (or knowingly encourage false hope) in what Republicans can do to thwart President Barack Obama’s agenda, especially in the Senate.

It sounds so easy. Just refuse to fund the government until Obama and the Democrats give in. After all, they’re more vested in the federal government continuing operations than the Republicans, right?

But as we all learned during the last government “shutdown” the government continues to chug along even after the money supposedly runs out. Entitlement spending, which includes Obamacare, continues without interruption. As Johnson pointed out during his informal talk, it also means the bureaucrats supporting that spending get to continue coming to work.

In addition, a number of “essential” functions of the government (as defined by the executive branch) also continue to work. Pretty soon the only functions of government that don’t continue to work are the national parks. Annoying tourists (even if Obama did it intentionally in some areas) is not going to bring the Democrats to their knees.

So the spending continues, Obamacare keeps screwing up the health care market and raising insurance premiums, and our southern border continues to be a sieve. Meanwhile Republicans can’t even pass the bills to fix these problems.

When Obamacare passed in the Senate it was because the Democrats had a brief sixty-member majority. Republicans did not have enough members to filibuster the bill.

Republicans now have 54 seats. That’s not enough to overcome the Democrats’ ability to filibuster any bill repealing Obamacare, or stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, or any other item on the Republican agenda.

Republicans could end the filibuster, but that’s short-term thinking with no gain. Even if Republicans pass all those wonderful bills on their agenda, Obama would just veto them. Ending the filibuster won’t get rid of the two-thirds vote requirement to override a presidential veto.

What ending the filibuster would do is make it easier for government to grow. Imagine what the Democrats would have accomplished when they were in the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives without the filibuster rule.

At least Obama’s executive orders can be undone by the next president. Now imagine Obama’s orders written into the law by being passed by Congress. Imagine the entire “climate change” regulatory agenda, the Democrats’ tax agenda, the Democrats’ gun control agenda, the rampant spending, all passed while Republicans could do nothing.

This is not to excuse all of the failures of Republican leaders, and Johnson doesn’t. However, when asked, Johnson was unwilling to suggest an alternative to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

So, given the limitations Johnson described, what can Republicans do? Is there anything that can be accomplished while they control both the House and the Senate?

Both bodies can continue to hold votes to put the Democrats on record. The Republicans can continue to block those parts of Obama’s agenda that require legislative approval. They can continue to use their oversight powers to make the case for conservative policies.

In the meantime, conservative activists need to remember that there are limits to what can be accomplished in politics. It’s easy to believe that a revolution can be accomplished with just a donation to the right group or the right candidate, but it’s still a divided government.

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