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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights MORE’s Monday put-down of President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge 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 criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE, working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters 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 BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE and President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race 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 ManchinJoe ManchinMajor climate program likely to be nixed from spending package: reports Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE; to Montana, to challenge Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Debt ceiling fight punted to December MORE; to North Dakota, to challenge Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE; to Indiana, to challenge Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE; to Missouri, to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect 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.