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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference Feehery: The long game MORE’s Monday put-down of President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit 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.

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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 RyanGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit Former Trump aide says he canceled CNN appearance over 'atrocious' Helsinki coverage 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 ClintonShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE, working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick 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 BoehnerFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Veterans are left out of medical marijuana protections MORE and President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick The dishonesty of the deep state The SCOTUS nomination clearly demonstrates that elections have consequences 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) ManchinMorrisey accuses Manchin of 'lying' to Trump, attacks ‘liberal’ record The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE; to Montana, to challenge Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Dems in terrible bind on Kavanaugh nomination Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race MORE; to North Dakota, to challenge Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE; to Indiana, to challenge Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Overnight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate MORE; to Missouri, to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillSenate Dems lock in million in TV airtime Why does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote 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.