“Why did you vote for Stimulus II and break your word on The Pledge? Why did you lay down during the Lame Duck disaster?”
These are the questions that will dog GOP House members from now until November 2012. No matter what they do or say, Tea Party activists will be at their townhalls and at every public event, holding up a copy of the “the deal” in one hand and a highlighted copy of “The Pledge to America” in another, and every excuse will be hooted at if not shouted down. As Congressman John Shimkus acknowledged to me on yesterday’s program, “You are correct in saying that the Pledge was a governing document for now.” (Transcript here.) Senators didn’t take the Pledge so they are in a much better position than Congressmen –they can assert it was the best deal they could get whether or not they believe it and whether or not activists believe it. Senators are much less vulnerable to the anger of grassroots activists, as Democrats just discovered. Many GOP House members are signing their retirement notices with this vote if they vote “yes.”
The reason: There is no satisfactory explanation for breaking a pledge in December that was signed on to in September.
If there was, then Speaker-designate Boehner and soon to be Majority Leader Cantor would be out in public on conservative media critical of “the deal” defending bill. They aren’t.
I have spent a lot of time going over this ground with GOP representatives this week and last, and for the benefit of lazy MSM that, with few exceptions like this piece in Politico, seem either oblivious to this crucial fight within the GOP or incapable of calling up members of Congress and asking them how they are going to vote and about the Pledge, here’s a handy reference to the transcripts:
Two interviews with Jason Chaffetz —the first in which he is on the fence, and the second in which he declares himself a no vote. (This move to opposition sets up Chaffetz for a run at Orrin Hatch for the GOP nomination in 2012. The divide over Stimulus II will be a key issue, as will Senator Hatch’s ability to stop his friend Bob Bennett from supporting the huge pork bill gathering steam in the Senate right now.)
The interview with Jeff Flake (a no vote).
I have also interviewed Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock, who are both yes votes, though we don’t have the transcripts available yet. I got a lot of email expressing shock from California listeners who never thought Congressman McClintock would go with the spending in Stimulus II.)
The best response seems to be “We had to break the Pledge to save it.” If argued vigorously –the Senate sent us this and we are still in the minority and there was no time to try and get a better deal– the damage could be minimized. But holing up and hoping that all will be made right in 2012 reminds me of the phrase “Hope is not a strategy.”
Conservatives just don’t believe that this was the best deal that could be done. They would have rallied to any GOP leader willing to take the risk and fight in the new Congress. The grassroots would have crushed the Senate Democrats who stood in the way of tax relief.
President Obama has thus skillfully split the conservatives with one move, and now Harry Reid is sundering the 42 GOP senators in a way that threatens to rush through a wagon train of last minute legislative supplies to the left.
Long time GOP activists always moan how their D.C. leadership gets worked again and again and again by the Democrats. It is like being a Cleveland Indians or Browns fan. Personnel changes, you get your hopes up, and then you are back in the basement –again.
The only good news about this fiasco is the new GOP House members aren’t caught up in it. They will be able to answer the Tea Party activists that they would have opposed Stimulus II. That will probably be enough to persuade the grassroots to vent their anger elsewhere, but a lot of primary challenges are being launched this week.