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The Showdown That Cannot Be Avoided

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My debate with Republican Congressman Jack Kingston on yesterday’s show generated the most comment overnight (that’s what happens when picks up the audio), but it was not the most newsworthy of the four interviews I conducted with Members yesterday. In addition to Kingston (transcript here) I interviewed Chairman of Natural Resources Doc Hastings (transcript here), former chair of the Republican Conference Mike Pence (transcript here) and Jim Jordan, chair of the Republican Study Group (transcript here).

When Doc Hastings replied in response to my question about defunding Planned Parenthood that “our leaders are absolutely committed to that, as am I committed to that,” he was rebutting the aide-driven buzz that the GOP caucus was going to sell out the social conservatives.

“We’re saying we think it’s time to push, we know our leadership is committed to that, it’s just a matter of tactics, timing and strategy,” said Jim Jordan about defunding both Planned Parenthood and NPR.

“And we’re saying we think the time is right, and this strategy is right to go after them now,” he continued.

Thus both Hastings and Jordan are committed to only one more CR and one that defunds Planned Parenthood and NPR. (See this op-ed by Tea Party Patriots co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler on NPR.) Similarly the GOP caucus has no choice but to bar the use of funds on Obamacare regs or to shutter EPA’s carbon reg effort as well. There is no GOP Congressman who will publicly disagree with any of these propositions and each of them is popular with the country as a whole, as is the need to cut spending. It is hard to imagine whipping a vote for a “compromise” CR that abandons any of these four goals or which backs very far off of the $60 billion number.

Thus on April 8 the GOP leadership has to either win on these five points or allow the non-essential parts of the government to shut down. All of Congressman King’s protests about it being only the second quarter and having a unified caucus are just beside the point. The Republican base has reached its limit of patience over the need to secure something tangible –something real– from the overwhelming mandate it delivered last November, and that must come in the last CR for 2011.

There is a lot of concern over a replay of 1995, but the GOP hand-wringers have to ask themselves what would have happened to Newt if he hadn’t at least tried to win? The GOP held the Congress in 1996 after all, but would it have done so had it simply caved to Bill Clinton without first trying hard to win?

Talking to many people onand off air it is clear to me that a failure to engage on these key issues now will result not just in some primary challenges, but in the significant shift of some strategic support to Democratic challengers against Republican incumbents aligned with spending in the fall of 2012. This is the consequence that GOP appropriators haven’t yet figured out. In the new age of targeted technology and fundraising, the deficit hawks don’t have to sacrifice a GOP majority to make their point. They merely have to help elect some Democrats running against Republican big spenders across the country to make their point. Tuesday’s vote on the CR was a warm up to the next vote on any CR, and on every key vote thereafter.

The November election wasn’t about open rules or symbolic stands. It was about cutting the size and scope of government and fighting to do so despite what the MSM says about the battle. The GOP House has run out of time with its base. It was a huge blunder to wait this long, to start so weak with the first “cuts” and to appear to be retreating at every turn. It was an even worse mistake for the big spenders to lash out at the deficit hawks via leaks and anonymous quotes yesterday.

The worst communications team in memory chalked up another fiasco yesterday, just as they did the day before, and today they are going to offer up a sham “NPR defunding” bill, which will be three swings and misses in a week. The question I posed Congressman Kingston yesterday “Do you think we are stupid?” applies to the entire GOP delegation. The voters aren’t. They know a dodge and a ruse and a cheap substitute for the real thing. Skip the gimmicks and get on with making the argument about why the government will have to close down unless the president and the Senate Democrats listen to the people. Explain why we are getting out of the abortion funding and public radio business. Explain how the voters and the courts have cast a cloud over Obamacare and we won’t be allowing any job-killing rules to be written, and how the EPA has gone rogue and needs a legislative tether.

Make the same case, in other words, that you did in the fall and then make it again. Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has begun to, but Politico events and stories in The Hill reach about eight people outside of the Beltway elites, not the country as a whole. If the GOP leadership puts a gag in the mouths of the staffers and the Beltway sharpies who backed them into this corner with enromously wrong-headed tactics to date, and if they truly start making the case for one more CR and entitlement reform, by April 8 the country will at least know what the GOP is fighting for, and the caucus will be back voting as one.


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