It Takes a Veto

All summer long, Republicans have been touting their success in passing spending bills. The problem? There are no Republican policies in them.

The bill the Senate passed earlier this week—which combines three spending bills into one package and extends government funding through December 7—fails to address any Republican policy priorities. It somehow manages to spend even more than the $1.3 trillion omnibus Congress passed in March. Obama-era programs that the president targeted for repeal or roll back are fully funded. There’s a reason, after all, that the people praising the bill the loudest are Senate Democrats.

The last two years have demonstrated that the Republican Congress has little interest in putting up a fight for conservative priorities, and even less interest in fighting on behalf of the president’s agenda. The state of the current spending bill makes this plain.

If congressional Republicans won’t assert themselves on behalf of the voters who elected them, then the president must. It’s time for President Trump to whip out the veto pen. Here are three reasons why.

In March, Trump promised he would “never sign a bill like this again.” Trump was clearly irritated with the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that Congress sent him in March, calling the process of passing the 2,232-page bill in less than 24 hours a “ridiculous situation.” He also took issue with the price tag, and the many “things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill.”

Well, here’s some news. The bill that will land on his desk next week is almost exactly the same thing, except it does even less on policy while spending $33 billion more.

Republican leaders are trying to hide behind the technicality of not sending the president one giant omnibus—so instead, they sent him two. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Oh, you didn’t like that crap sandwich we served you last time? Okay, here, try two halves instead of one whole.”

It’s also a classic D.C. misdirect, where people intentionally miss the point (Trump doesn’t want to sign massive spending bills) while pretending to adhere to it (we listened, and technically, this is not an omnibus!). This is the type of disingenuous swamp-speak which only survives as long as everyone plays along. Trump shouldn’t fall for it.

This bill doesn’t fund any Republican policy priorities. It’s hard to overstate how hard Senate Republicans whiffed on the opportunities to get good policy into this bill. Or even to try.

The true power of a majority is its ability to write bills that reflect exactly what it wants—and then to force the minority, in this case, the Democrats, to fight to take them out. But these are Republicans, so the approach was just the opposite: Yield to Democrats at the outset by continuing all Obama-era policies, block conservatives from offering any amendments, and then engage in self-congratulation for passing the most uninspiring piece of legislation imaginable.

The bill the Senate just passed maintains the status quo on Obamacare, fully funds Planned Parenthood, continues research on fetal tissue harvested from abortion, does not allow for conscience protections for doctors and hospitals, keeps nearly all of Obama’s social and education programs, makes no effort at civil service reform, does nothing on border security, fully funds sanctuary cities and spends more than the entire budget of the federal government in 1991.

Trump’s veto pen is the last measure of accountability for congressional Republicans before voters wield the ultimate measure in November.

It’s now or never for Trump’s border wall. Congress has played hide-the-ball on Trump’s border wall for the better part of two years, and that’s not going to change.

For example, take the $1.6 billion that Congress “gave” the president for his border wall in March. That money is there, but is prohibited from being used on any new construction, or on any of Trump’s wall prototypes. It’s that crap sandwich again, but this time dipped in chocolate: Looks good, actually tastes, well, like crap.

Republican leaders have assured Trump that they will address these issues in the lame duck session, after the November elections. While this doesn’t reach the threshold of an outright lie, facts on the ground and recent history make it hard to see how this is a serious offer.

First, as a rule, lame-duck sessions do not breed good policy outcomes. This is obvious when you consider that they are constituted by a bunch of Members of Congress who either have just been reelected, who have lost, or are retiring. Either way, all of them have one thing in common: they are the furthest removed from the accountability of an election that they ever will be. For the losing or retiring members, the accountability is zero. They can vote on legislation without any consequence. And this is where Republican leaders are going to pass Trump’s border wall? Highly doubtful.

Second, we’ve seen this same promise collapse before. At the end of 2014, conservatives cut a deal with then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a one-year funding extension in exchange for a promise to address President Obama’s executive amnesty policies in early 2015. It was a promise never intended to be kept. As Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said at the time, “Since December, the outcome has been baked in the cake. It was abundantly clear to anyone watching that leadership in both houses intended to capitulate on the fight against amnesty.”

There is nothing to suggest the same outcome won’t occur in December. The dynamics are nearly identical. Moreover, these Republican majorities have failed repeatedly to mount a successful (or serious) effort to pass immigration reform. Why expect a different outcome from similar attitudes?

Trump on Thursday took to Twitter to castigate congressional Republicans: “I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?”

His instincts are right. If Trump truly wants a different outcome, however, it’s going to take more than a tweet. It’s going to take a veto.

Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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About Rachel Bovard

Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute and Senior Advisor to the Internet Accountability Project. Beginning in 2006, she served in both the House and Senate in various roles including as legislative director for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), where she advised Committee members on strategy related to floor procedure and policy matters. In the House, she worked as senior legislative assistant to Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-Il.), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). She is the former director of policy services for the Heritage Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelBovard.