The Right Has to Be Sidelined

I encourage you to peruse the Heritage Foundation’s September action plan to see how unreasonable and unrealistic their demands are for how they expect Republican leaders to behave and Republican officeholders to vote. Here are some examples, and please remember that Congress has twelve legislative days to complete their entire September must-do list.

On the debt ceiling, which must be raised very soon to avoid a possible global economic catastrophe, Heritage advises, “Congress should not raise the debt limit with another bad budget deal. Rather, Congress should address the debt limit separately, and adopt spending controls before raising the debt limit again.” Where will they find the time for that?

On reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before a September 30th deadline, “Congress should convert CHIP funding into a defined contribution program” and “require the states to share more of the cost of the program.” Those are much more complex (and radical) proposals than they might sound, and when is the debate over them supposed to take place?

On reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before a September 30th deadline, Congress should “[l]ocalize airport funding by eliminating the (Airport Improvement Program) AIP,” eliminate the Essential Air Service program, relax regulations on “air carrier employment practices, ticketing operations, and airport grant assurances,” and “[e]xpand access to the Airport Privatization Pilot Program.” These are truly radical and destructive policy proposals and even Heritage admits there isn’t time to debate them. Ultimately, they ask for as short of an extension as possible so these things can be revisited in the near future.

On reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) before a September 30th deadline, Heritage says, “Congress should phase out the deeply flawed program and enable private insurance to replace it.” They lay out a complicated and basically insane phase-out plan. They don’t explain when the debate over this plan is supposed to take place.

On avoiding a government shutdown, Congress should “[r]eject any attempt to increase overall discretionary funding levels. Instead, lawmakers should prioritize national defense funding within the boundaries of the aggregate [Budget Control Act] BCA spending limits for FY 2018, and offset any defense funding increase with prudent domestic program eliminations and funding reductions.” In other words, no deals, just magic. Somehow, the Republicans should get the Democrats to agree to spend every available dime we have on weapons and to offset the cost by cuts to other government programs.

None of this is real advice. How would Ryan and McConnell achieve any of it in the twelve legislative days available to them?

Republican lawmakers, however, don’t like to get on the wrong side of the Heritage Foundation. If Heritage says not to raise the debt ceiling unless new spending controls are adopted first, then it doesn’t matter if there is no way to accomplish that task. If the flood insurance program shouldn’t be reauthorized until it is basically dismantled and privatized, then that might just be the end of the story. If the only acceptable appropriations plan is completely unachievable, then a government shutdown we shall have.

If you’re Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, you’ve got nothing to work with here. No realistic deals are deemed acceptable.

Yet, they sold Trump a plan premised primarily on the fact that they could pass through his agenda on party-line votes.

While it’s hard to blame them for the predicament Heritage puts them in, they can absolutely be blamed by Trump for making promises to him that were ridiculous and absurd.

To avoid a catastrophic default, a government shutdown, and a lapse in children’s health care, federal aviation safety and flood insurance, the Republican leadership in the Congress and the White House will have to tell Heritage to pound sand.

And then they’ll have to figure out how to survive politically, which John Boehner and Eric Cantor can tell them will not be easy.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.