It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 MORE’s Monday put-down of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump's desire for military parade: 'We have a Napoleon in the making' MORE’s “excessive expectations” drew a response from Trump Wednesday, when the president tweeted, “Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations, but I don’t think so. After seven years of hearing "repeal and replace," why not done?” On this issue, as on so many others, the conservative grassroots leaders, activists, and voters who put them both in power side with the president – and rightly so.

Sadly, the Trump-McConnell exchange reveals a larger truth: Since the start of the current Congress, congressional Republicans have had no leadership, and no game plan. They spent months on half-hearted attempts to repeal ObamaCare, only to end (at least, so far) in failure. They have yet to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins seven weeks from now, and while the House has passed a “minibus” appropriations bill that rolled four of the 12 annual appropriations bills into one, they’ve yet to pass any of the other eight; the Senate, on the other hand, will almost assuredly discard that “minibus,” and has yet to even consider, let alone pass, any appropriations for the 2018 fiscal year that begins October 1.

Compounding the difficulty, there’s a debt ceiling crisis looming, with ominous warnings from the Treasury Secretary that Congress must pass legislation raising the debt limit by the end of September or calamity will strike.

And they’ll have all of 12 days to do it when they return in September.

But wait, we’re not done. If congressional GOP leaders are to be believed, they’ll try to pass a budget with reconciliation instructions, and then pass tax reform, and an infrastructure bill, and make another pass at ObamaCare repeal before the end of the year.


Let’s start with the two issues that could lead to calamity – raising the debt ceiling, and government funding.

Given the difficulties in addressing either issue, and given that both must be done by the end of September, it’s more than likely that the two will be wrapped into one bill. Congressional leaders like to “protect” the members of their caucuses as much as possible, and asking them to take one tough vote is almost always preferred to two. So look for a deal that combines a short-term Continuing Resolution with a debt ceiling increase.

McConnell and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money MORE are under pressure to pass a “clean” debt ceiling increase, shorn of any extraneous provisions reducing future spending growth, or reforming entitlements, or making any other institutional reforms. That’s because Senate Democrats must provide the votes necessary to pass the enacting legislation, and they refuse to consider trimming future spending increases. 

Frankly, that’s just pathetic. A “clean” debt ceiling increase is what we would have expected from a President Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts report Warner attempted to talk to dossier author Poll: Nearly half of Iowans wouldn’t vote for Trump in 2020 Rubio on Warner contact with Russian lobbyist: It’s ‘had zero impact on our work’ MORE, working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is 'un-American' Trump called for unity — he didn’t even last a week Overnight Defense: GOP plays hardball by attaching defense funding to CR | US reportedly drawing down in Iraq | Russia, US meet arms treaty deadline | Why the military wants 6B from Congress MORE and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In fact, a “clean” debt ceiling increase would be a WORSE deal for Republicans than the 2011 debt ceiling increase, negotiated between then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE and President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo end sugar subsidies, conservatives can't launch a frontal attack House presses Senate GOP on filibuster reform A pro-science approach to Yucca Mountain appropriations MORE. That deal gave the president the debt ceiling hike he wanted – but gave the GOP a $2.1 trillion reduction in planned spending growth.

That 2011 deal was negotiated when Republicans owned just one of the three key seats at the table. 

After years of hard work at the grassroots level, Republicans now control all three. And yet they’re now considering a deal that’s WORSE than the deal that was negotiated six years ago, when Democrats controlled the Senate and the White House?

That’s pathetic.

Here’s a different idea: Fight. Go to the public. Put the onus on Democrats to defend their position. Challenge red-state Democrats in particular to explain why it makes more sense to just keep the gravy train rolling, when everyone knows a refusal to make a course correction will lead to a real calamity. Explain that every man, woman and child in this country now owes more than $61,000 for his or her share of the national debt, and that if Democrats have their way, that number will continue to increase, with no end in sight.

Send the president to West Virginia, to challenge Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Manchin: Senators should sign pledge not to campaign against each other  GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation MORE; to Montana, to challenge Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrat Manchin: Pence attacks prove ‘they don't want bipartisanship’ in Trump admin Tester invited the Border Patrol Union’s president to the State of the Union. What does that say to Dreamers?   These Democrats will have a hard time keeping their seats in 2018 MORE; to North Dakota, to challenge Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHouse passes bill to ease menu labeling rules under ObamaCare In 2018, Trump must be the small-business champion he claimed to be GOP goes on offense with 20-week abortion vote MORE; to Indiana, to challenge Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyHouse passes bill to ease menu labeling rules under ObamaCare Democrat Manchin: Pence attacks prove ‘they don't want bipartisanship’ in Trump admin Pence optimistic GOP can expand majorities in House, Senate MORE; to Missouri, to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGovernment watchdog finds safety gaps in assisted living homes GOP Senate candidate fundraising lags behind Dems in key races McCaskill challenger links human trafficking to 'sexual revolution' of 1960s MORE.

Let the battle lines be drawn. Let the public see the distinction between the two parties, and their two philosophies.

Of course, doing that would require coordination, and planning, and backbone. Perhaps I ask too much of GOP congressional leaders. But stranger things have been known to happen. We got Donald Trump into the White House, didn’t we?

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.