A Permanent Minority?
By Isaac MacMillen
Despite losing—badly—in the past two general elections...despite having just seen off a very unpopular president... and despite now facing an extremely popular Democratic president, inside sources say that Republicans who met for a 3-day weekend retreat in Virginia this past weekend were anything but glum.
Buoyed from a their stand in the House—in which no Republican voted for the more-than $800 billion Pelosi-Reid stimulus—Republicans were beginning to rediscover their fiscally conservative roots. And a common theme seemed to be the re-emergence of “philosophical differences” that divides the parties, upon which many in the House based their vote.
Even the new NRCC election strategy, as unveiled by the new chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (TX), puts conservative principles into action, by relying upon local personnel for fundraising and recruiting.
Newly-elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele echoed the refrain. Speaking to FOX's Sean Hannity on Sunday, Steele stated that, following the House vote, he called up Rep. Cantor and congratulated him. Continued Steele:
“...I thought it was a very bold move. I think the base especially is particularly excited to see Republicans standing firm on the core economic principle that we trust the people who know best to do what their dollars than the government.”
Steele also commented on the failures of Republicans over the past decade to govern according to their principles. “We grew the size of government,” he said. “When we're saying we believed in less government, we grew government. When we said we believe in less spending, we spent more.”
Therein lies the problem that has plagued the party for more than a decade. False promises—deceptive advertising, if you will—has left Republicans reeling as Americans finally gave up on them. Promising the benefits of capitalism while enforcing socialist policies led inexorably to a well-deserved oblivion. And now, GOPers are at least back to talking the talk.
However great last week's victory, though, the real test will come once the Senate renegotiates a new, more palatable version of the so-called economic “stimulus” bill. Already, the weak-kneed are urging thaat it contain just enough tax cuts and porky projects to satisfy some wavering Republicans.
If the party caves and splits, the victory of last week will appear no more than a PR stunt. If, however, the party holds together and continues to oppose liberalism run amuk—no matter how tempting the packaging—then the first stimulus vote will stand tall as the opening volley in a war on Big Government.
Indeed, there is no reason that any conservative could honestly support the 'stimulus' package as it now stands. ALG News has already listed nearly $100 billion in wasteful or unnecessary spending that has been craftily inserted into the bill. Some of the more outrageous abuses of taxpayer dollars include:
--$1.2 billion for “youth activities,” including summer job programs
--$600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees
--$400 million for the CDC to screen and prevent STDs
--$200 million to lease alternative energy vehicles for use on military bases
--$248 million for furniture for the new DHS HQ
--$150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities
--$75 million for “smoking cessation activities”
The list goes on. And, at present, it seems to many a cinch to pass. Yet, if Republicans focus, they can effectively make the case to the public that this stimulus bill will only stimulate special interests. And if that happens, top GOP senators are predicting that the bill could still face the same fate as immigration reform.
So, kudos to House Republicans for holding out against the stimulus package. If nothing else, the GOP has drawn a distinct difference between itself and the ruling Democrats. And that could be significant.
As some may recall, Republican support was nonexistent for then-President Bill Clinton's Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which Democratic Whip Representative James Clyburn (D) acknowledges may have helped Republicans take Congress in 1994.
But such a resurgence today will require the Republicans to stick to their principles. And that has not been their stock in trade. Many Americans cheered when Republicans voted against the original $700-billion bailout plan. But that victory was ceded when the revised version passed with significant Republican support.
For now, the spotlight falls on the Senate Republicans, who are facing considerable pressure to vote for the stimulus. However, top congressional sources tell ALG News that a GOP filibuster remains a possibility—providing some hope for fiscal conservatives.
But if the Senate Republicans betray the House Republicans' victory, the party will be back to square one. They will not recover their image, fiscal conservatism will appear dead, and the base will be demoralized.
“Stimulus” pacckage opponents are calling on Republicans to adhere to the principles laid down by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ), who drafted a letter to their colleagues, listing the criterion they would use in evaluating a spending bill:
1) Any new spending commitment authorized must be paid for by cutting other programs;
2) New programs should not duplicate existing programs
3) Any federal contract or earmark costing more than $25,000 must be competitively bid; and
4) All new programs must include independent and enforceable performance measurements.
By holding to those four standards, Congressional Republicans will give form to the “philosophically-based” opposition beginning to echo through GOP ranks It would give them a standard to which they can rally the nation. But they must bring with them the will to stick it through. Failure to follow through on their promises to the American people would entrench them as a permanent minority. And their joyous long-weekend of self-congratulating revelry will simply be seen as an all-too-brief retreat from a suicidal reality.
Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor to ALG News.