The Party That Doesn’t Care About Governing Won’t Do Much in 2018

Republicans managed to pass their tax cuts designed primarily to satisfy their wealthy donors at the end of last year. That came on the heels of their failure to repeal Obamacare. This year we’ve heard all kinds of talk about legislation on things like DACA, infrastructure, welfare reform and cutting entitlements. But it is growing increasingly clear that none of that is going to happen.

As regular readers here know by now, I’ve consistently been bearish on the possibility of Trump getting anything done on infrastructure. The number two man in the Senate just put a nail in that coffin for 2018.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, said Tuesday that passing an infrastructure bill by the end of the year will be a tough task because lawmakers are facing a host of other priorities — news that would be a major blow to Trump’s hopes for another big legislative victory before the November midterm elections.

“I think it’s gonna be hard, because we have so many other things to do and we don’t have much time,” Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters.

It is a wonder that reporters didn’t break out laughing when Cornyn referred to “a host of other priorities.” The least they could have done is ask him, “What other priorities?”

With passage of a two year spending agreement, there are no budget or debt limit issues to blow things up. Contrary to what some of us may have hoped, they’re not going to tackle gun control. An immigration deal isn’t in the works. Without the use of budget reconciliation, Republicans won’t be able to tackle welfare reform or entitlements. Even things like McConnell’s promise to Sen. Collins about an Obamacare fix and Trump’s idea about privatizing air traffic control aren’t going to happen.

The reason none of these things are going anywhere was exemplified by how the president and Republican leaders handled DACA. When presented with a bipartisan compromise, they rejected it. What every American should know by now (but obviously doesn’t), is that our form of government requires compromise. One political party is willing to do that and one isn’t. As Greg Sargent writes, the one that isn’t won’t be held accountable until we call them out.

The savviest Washington observers have spoken: Despite the massive outpouring of energy and organizing in favor of action on guns in the wake of the Florida massacre, nothing is going to happen. That is an easy bet. It is also an easy bet that those savvy observers will chalk that up to “Washington,” or “partisan bickering,” or “political reality,” which will make accountability harder to achieve for the politicians — who will almost certainly be all Republicans — culpable for ensuring that outcome.

My message to the Parkland students, the Dreamers or anyone else that is organizing for the change they want to see in this country is: “Be prepared to hold Republicans accountable in November.” It might take a couple of election cycles to make sure they understand that their jobs are on the line. But sustained efforts are going to be required to turn this around. The only other option is cynicism about the possibility for change via political engagement. But as Obama reminded us time and time again, “Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.