The Federalist – by Rachel Bovard
Republicans may have majorities in the House and Senate, but the only group they seem to care about pleasing are the Democrat minorities. As the next funding deadline approaches, Republicans in Congress are working on a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes all kinds of provisions that fly in the face of campaign promises, principles, and even their party’s platform.
Take a look at what’s on the list.
Full funding for Planned Parenthood
Republicans have made it a central campaign promise for years now to end taxpayer funding for America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. This issue has gained urgency in light of the Department of Justice investigation into the organization’s dealings in fetal tissue. Yet, drafts of this latest funding bill preserve the $10 million a year that Planned Parenthood receives from taxpayers. Conservative House Republicans are making an admirable play to remove it, but have not been issued any guarantees. The bill also lacks any of the conscience protections for health providers, the type Republicans have long insisted they support.
Extension of Obama’s executive amnesty
Republicans who howled for years about President Obama’s executive amnesty are about to vote to extend it. Based on recent reports, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) are seeking to include a legislative fix that would grant legal status to the 700,000 illegal immigrants currently receiving protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In exchange, Congress would provide limited funding for President Trump’s wall at the southern border. While 72 percent of Republicans support a wall, Trump and the GOP promised they wouldn’t extend DACA unless chain migration and the visa lottery system unless a border wall was real — and actually completed.
Obamacare bailout that helps insurance companies
After promising for nearly a decade to repeal Obamacare, Republicans are now crafting a policy to bail it out, to the tune of $30 billion. If they go down this road, Republicans will not only have failed to repeal Obamacare, they will have further entrenched it. Worse still, it is unclear if this funding will be subject to full and legitimate “Hyde protections,” which would prohibit insurance companies from using bailout money to provide abortion coverage.
Gun control legislation
The tragedy in Parkland has brought renewed attention to gun control measures, and Republicans are falling all over themselves to “do something.” It’s likely that some form of Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) “Fix NICS” bill will be included in the omnibus. This is the type of feel-good gun control measure that doesn’t actually solve the underlying issues and, worse, creates new ones. NICS is already stripping veterans of their gun rights without any due process, and the Cornyn bill threatens to create more barriersfor legal gun owners without solving the problem of gun violence. Criminals, after all, rarely stop in for a background check.
Restoration of the Export-Import Bank
The fate of the Ex-Im Bank has been a rare win for conservatives who fought Obama tooth and nail over bank’s corporate welfare. By keeping the bank devoid of the quorum necessary to make million-dollar loans to huge corporations like Boeing, Caterpillar and the like, conservatives have managed to keep the bank’s cronyism largely at bay. Enter the Republican majorities, who are reportedly planning to pass a provision lowering the quorum requirements for the bank to approve loans. Looks like Iran may get those taxpayer funded Boeing jets after all.
Hundreds of millions for a tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey
House Republicans have technically banned earmarks, but that hasn’t stopped them from including a $900 million fund for the Gateway Project — an underground tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. The project, which began at a cost of $13.5 billion, has ballooned to $29.5 billion. Predictably, the states aren’t offering to cover the extra costs. Why would they, when the Republican Congress is so willing to fund one of the largest earmarks ever? (But don’t worry, earmarks are still banned.)
A sweeping tax on internet sales
You know what’s a great idea in a midterm election year? Impose a sweeping new tax that nobody likes. House Republicans are planning to do just that by granting states new power to tax and regulate internet sales made by businesses outside their borders. This would effectively give individual states massive new taxing authorities across the country, and subject internet retailers to legal and cost compliance in the more than 12,000 taxing jurisdictions worldwide. The legislation is opposed by nearly 20 conservative groups, but unsurprisingly, that has yet to sway Republican leadership who seem intent on moving forward with the policy.
Mitch McConnell’s long-sought earmark for the NRSC
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is about to get one of his long-sought after priorities: a dramatic increase in the amount of cash that party organizations may spend in coordination with their candidates. Essentially, this allows the party establishment organizations to collude with incumbents in a way that independent political organizations cannot. We could call this the Permanent Swamp earmark, because it is intentionally designed to protect the establishment against any newcomers.
Despite having congressional majorities, Republicans are writing bills designed to attract liberal votes. This puts conservatives in the position of having to fight like hell for their priorities to be included, only to be publicly shamed for “obstructing” the process when they do. (For a case study, see what happened to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) when he tried to get an amendment to the last funding bill.)
Even if conservatives successfully convince their leadership to remove a liberal provision that shouldn’t have even been there in the first place, that’s the extent of the changes they’ll then be allowed to make to the bill. At that point, conservatives are told to sit down and be quiet because they’ve received their concession.
It’s cynical politics, and even worse policy. What is the point of even having a majority if it only works in the service of your opponent?
Rachel Bovard is a fellow at Defense Priorities and currently serves as senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute. She has more than a decade of policy experience in Washington and has served in both the House and Senate in various roles, including as a legislative director and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Sen. Pat Toomey and Sen. Mike Lee. She also served as director of policy services for The Heritage Foundation.