What is missed by the mainstream pundits about the conservative movement in America and in Congress?
First, let us acknowledge that during the post-New Deal political era, Republicans have rarely been in control of one chamber of Congress, and even more rarely has the GOP controlled both the House and the Senate.
During the reign of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., where the American people, as well as Republicans, were shut out of the debate by the ruling elite of the Democrat Party, America rejected this authoritarian structure and soon gave the Republicans control of the House in a historic midterm wave election.
It was 2010. Republicans like Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.; and even John Boehner, R-Ohio, crisscrossed the nation with a simple and effective message: give us a governing majority, and we will do things differently.
Those “Young Guns,” who had written a book by that same title, crafted a Pledge to America, which was rolled out in September, not just with hopes and promises to the public, but rather a “pledge”—something that shows strong commitment.
Many of us running at the time supported this pledge, as it mirrored a lot of the things we had talked about during our primaries and were running on as we approached the general election in November.
Some highlights of the pledge were cutting runaway government spending, with the plan to roll back spending to 2008 levels while exempting seniors, veterans, and our troops from those cuts; to repeal Obamacare; to make permanent the Bush Tax Cuts for all; a hiring freeze on federal agencies; a permanent ban on federal funding for abortion; and a requirement for Congress to post a bill online for three days before a vote.
After the new Congress was sworn in and approached the “must-pass” legislative functions of government spending bills and debt ceiling increases, many of us expected the House to use the constitutional power of the purse to effect some of these changes.
Backing Away From the Pledge
Instead of standing firm on Pledge to America issues, our leadership allowed Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Barack Obama to steamroll us. It was easier for that to take place when they allowed deadlines to loom, using words like “shutdown” and “default” to scare not only members of Congress, but also the American public.
Though they may rest their actions on the hollow talking points of “governing”—whatever that means—leading while on your heels is a strategy doomed to failure.
Deadlines and Leverage
Leadership has used deadlines as leverage to force votes on unpopular and ill-conceived legislation.
When was the vote taken on the Budget Control Act of 2011? August 1, 2011, after the debt ceiling had been reached.
When was the vote taken on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts? Recall that the fiscal cliff fight actually went over for almost 24 hours, where a bill was passed on Jan. 1, 2013, about 11 p.m.
When was the vote taken on the first continuing resolution of 2011? Right before midnight, when the existing spending plan expired.
When was the vote taken on the omnibus spending package and a continuing resolution combination, or “CRomnibus”? Dec. 11, 2014, when the bill had been actually filed on Dec. 9 at 10:30 PM and the existing continuing resolution expired at midnight of Dec. 11, 2014.
When was the vote taken on the latest continuing resolution of 2015? Just days before a shutdown on Sept. 30.
When will a vote need to happen on the debt ceiling increase of 2015? On or before Nov.3.
What is today’s date? Have you seen a debt ceiling increase plan yet from leadership?
When House leadership enters into pre-conference negotiations with the Senate (up until January, this was with Reid), how much input do typical Members of Congress have on these bills?
We never are permitted to offer amendments to these must-pass pieces of legislation. In the House, these bills are presented, just before a deadline, and we are told this is the only bill that will pass the United States Senate, and thus, in order to avoid the shutdown or default, we must pass this version.
It happened in every one of the scenarios I mentioned, as well as for Ryan-Murray, also known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.
A Broken System
This approach to legislating is what, in my humble opinion, is broken with the U.S. Congress. America never expected the House to win on every deal or win every concession. However, I do believe that pre-conferencing has been a failure for Republicans.
Had the House passed bills early in the process that reflected the core values, morals, principles, and convictions for which we stand, and sent those bills to the Senate instead of pre-conferencing, we would have won more political battles in the long run. America would have a clear indication of what we are fighting for on their behalf.
This same process is needed even with a Republican-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can’t get 60 votes to move legislation Republicans want. That is his problem, and not anyone’s in the House. We don’t have a vote in the Senate.
I would argue that we have insulated the senators for far too long from having to take certain difficult votes.
If we don’t have votes in the Senate, who can influence McConnell? The American people.
The House can engage the American people by acting early on the important issues. We must show them our position. By speaking passionately in the districts, in the states, and on national news media outlets, we can engage the American people, and they can assist McConnell.
America doesn’t want to see business as usual in the United States Congress.
Business as usual has led to bigger government, more government spending, and deficits that lead to greater debt. That debt for our nation today comes in just over $18,000,000,000,000.
In Congress, I see a group of patriotic American men and women serving to return America to a limited, constitutional government. They have been sent to Washington to restrict government spending, to address the nation’s debt crisis with real plans that inspire innovation, and to return America to its former greatness.
These members act regardless of a position of power, a committee assignment, fundraising capacity, or friendships.
Some, but not all, are in the House Freedom Caucus. We have the tools to change the executive-centric narrative in Washington; it’s about time we build a new political era.