There were a flurry of press releases going out yesterday after the House, by a 240-181 vote, passed a bill that would make a whole lot of conservatives happy campers were it to become law.
The vote was a House concurrence with Senate amendments to HR 3762, which is a budget reconciliation bill the Senate passed by a 52-47 vote in early December. Here’s what House Speaker Paul Ryan had to say about it…
“For five years, Senate Democrats have blocked our efforts to repeal Obamacare,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. “That ends today. With this vote, we are keeping a promise and putting a bill that repeals Obamacare and defunds Planned Parenthood on the president’s desk.”
“This budget reconciliation bill, which would reduce the federal deficit by a half trillion dollars, forces the president to confront the failures of Obamacare head on,” he added. “But most importantly, it clears the path to repealing this law with a Republican president in 2017 and replacing it with a truly patient-centered health care system. We will not back down from this fight to defend the sanctity of life and make quality health care coverage achievable for all Americans.”
And here was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise just before the bill’s passage…
“Today’s going to be an important day in the House where we finally have the opportunity to pass a bill that will end up on President Obama’s desk that guts Obamacare and that defunds Planned Parenthood. This is something we’ve set out to do in 2015 at the beginning of this Congress.
“We said we’re going to pass a budget for the first time in years, actually get a reconciliation process between the House and the Senate where we can use this tool that you only get once a year with narrow constraints, but with a powerful ability to get a bill to the President’s desk with 51 votes in the Senate — not 60 where the Senate can filibuster, where Harry Reid can filibuster, but where we can actually move important policy to the President’s desk. And we made a commitment as Republicans that we would focus on Obamacare. And then, of course, as the year went on, the country saw the horrific videos and what Planned Parenthood was doing to use taxpayer money to sell body parts.
“And we said we’re going to put that in the bill as well and the tools allowed us to do it and we’ve worked very closely with the pro- life movement. This is an important victory for the pro-life movement, as well as for conservatives all across the country who want to see the President confronted with a bill that not only guts Obamacare, makes him confront the problems that Americans are facing all around the country with his failed law, but also the ability then, to defund Planned Parenthood as well and have recorded votes in the House and Senate, but also have a bill on the President’s desk that he has to decide whether he’s going to sign or veto.
“So it’s going to be an important vote in the House today. It’s going to be an important decision for the President to confront where he can’t change the subject, talk about other issues like he tries to do with gun control and other things. He’s going to actually have to confront this issue and that bill will be on his desk because of the work that was initiated by the House, this House majority, to get to the president’s desk.”
There were lots of others.
Our friend Ellen Carmichael, who has been the press secretary for a few members of Congress over the past several years, has a piece at Opportunity Lives demanding recognition for the achievement of getting an Obamacare repeal bill to the president’s desk…
Wednesday’s budget-reconciliation bill also represents promises fulfilled to conservatives who have spent the past five years demanding that congressional Republicans use the “power of the purse” to end Obamacare once and for all. Until January 2015, Republicans did not have complementary efforts in the U.S. Senate, as it was controlled by Democrats unwilling to even make modest modifications to the law.
But within just four months of taking control of both chambers, Republicans in the House and Senate passed a balanced budget that paid off the national debt, fixed broken entitlement programs, laid the foundation for tax reform and repealed Obamacare. They followed up that success with a budget-reconciliation bill, which only requires 51 votes in the U.S. Senate, to pass out of both chambers legislation that would use fiscal tactics to dismantle the law.
Unfortunately, there has been no widespread mobilization of activists to congratulate conservative lawmakers on this milestone. There have been no words of encouragement from the perpetually outraged class, which seems remarkably disinterested in actual policy achievements in pursuit of their goal to repeal Obamacare. And since they so often take their cues from opposing what Democrats support, perhaps aggrieved conservatives should consider the condemnation of the bill from leading congressional Democrat Chris Van Hollen (D- Md.), who called it “shameful.”
This budget-reconciliation bill is a winner in the short term as well as for the GOP’s long-term strategic prospects. Republicans are fighting to repeal Obamacare and end federal subsidies of Planned Parenthood while also preparing for a Republican White House in 2017. They are honoring their commitments to those who elected them — to fight hard and to fight now — while making incremental gains that expand their appeal to the general public. This is smart conservatism.
Republicans are winning, but they need support from conservatives — from talk radio hosts to county GOP leaders — instead of censure when their initiatives fall short. If conservatives want more victories like this reconciliation bill, perhaps they should let their Republican lawmakers know they approve.
If all this is too wordy for you, I’ll simplify. The Beltway GOP is saying this…
I’m not here to denigrate the achievement of getting an Obamacare repeal bill through to the president’s desk, but I will gladly explain why there isn’t dancing in the streets of conservative precincts around the country.
It all comes back to the same thing, which is what are you going to do to force your will on Obama? Because when he vetoes the bill, the bill dies.
Unless you’re willing to stand by the budget reconciliation and let the government go to a shutdown in an election year when you’re defending 2/3 of the Senate seats that are up, then Obama gets what he wants and Obamacare and Planned Parenthood will get continued funding. I agree that this goes further than what they’ve done before, but it’s still Failure Theater.
You still have no leverage over Obama. And the conservative public knows this. That’s why there are no kudos or calls of support.
I don’t disagree with what they’ve done. I think this bill’s passage is the GOP majority in both houses doing their job and they deserve recognition for that.
But let’s not sell it as some sort of victory. All it is is a statement of a position. And yes, I agree with the position. But if you have no means of making the position into policy, you are no further along than if you weren’t even in office. I prefer the statement of a position to no statement, but if you’re not going to put anything in the middle in support of the statement it’s empty.
The best that can be said is Congress did its job. When Obama vetoes the bill, you can say he refuses to do his and his veto shows his disrespect for the Constitution. But if Congress isn’t willing to up the ante, Obama beats them. And now there is further precedent for the Imperial Presidency which controls a Congress that at one time was a co-equal branch of government.
And I’m not for a shutdown over this reconciliation bill. Not now. You do shutdowns in odd-numbered years, when there isn’t an election coming up and the voters don’t really care. You can shut the government down for half of an odd-numbered year and it won’t affect your prospects a bit. If anything it’ll help because people will notice how little the federal government actually does that they need.
But in an election year, it’s too much blood on the floor. So making a move like this now is doomed.
That’s why passing this bill doesn’t shake the earth and why there are no parades for Ryan and the gang.
And let me say this – despite the hue and cry over the Obamnibus bill the House passed at the end of last year, which funded Obamacare and Planned Parenthood and essentially makes this reconciliation bill little more than an academic exercise, I don’t blame Ryan for that as many conservatives do. He was given that debacle by John Boehner and did the best he could with it, which was to basically punt on the question rather than open his Speakership with a government shutdown. It doesn’t make him a great Speaker to have done so, but it doesn’t make him the traitor or Beelzebub that many on the Right called him. He got the proverbial s**t sandwich and he took a bite because he had no other choice.
This is a statement that the House wants to move in a different direction, and it’s appreciated. But it doesn’t change the facts on the ground, and that’s what conservatives want to see. You can’t rebuild trust with one budget reconciliation bill that won’t become law; it’s going to take a long pattern of more, and there will be few opportunities in 2016 to actually beat the president.