by N. A. Halkides 1/1/16
5.November-December 2014 – Congressional Elections and Cromnibus • The November 2014 Congressional elections were held against the backdrop of President Barack Obama once again ignoring the law and his oath of office by promising to implement a large-scale amnesty for certain classes of illegal aliens through executive orders. Typically, Obama withheld the details of his plans until after the elections because everyone knew they wouldn’t be popular with the voters, who might punish Democrats. As a matter of fact, the election was remarkably similar to that of 2010, which was basically a “cease and desist” order to Obama from the American people regarding Obamacare. Unfortunately, the people were once again dependent upon the Republican Party to obey their wishes and stop Obama, and once again the Party was to fail miserably in doing so.
We need not spend too much time on the details of Obama’s unlawful plans; it is perhaps enough to know two specifics:
- Illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for at least five years, and who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents, will get a three year work permit. This permit will also allow them to obtain a Social Security number and get a driver’s license.
- All illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors before 2010 will be eligible for amnesty.
Neither of these actions were legal; they would have required an act of Congress. A properly functioning opposition party, when faced with a President who was openly betraying his oath to enforce the nation’s laws, and who was moreover attempting to make law on his own, would have reacted in outrage and defunded the whole rotten scheme, while trying to make the case with the public that this President should be impeached for dereliction of duty and attempting to seize powers not granted him by the Constitution. The election had given Republicans control of the Senate as well as the House (as of January 2015), so at worst they had merely to bide their time during the “lame duck” session after the election and wait for reinforcements come January. Sure, Obama could “shut down” the government with a veto of any appropriations bill, but he couldn’t spend one dime on his own, and if Republicans would only hang tough, sooner or later he’d have to deal – and accept defunding of his illegal amnesty. And what did Republicans do? They caved in again, in December during the lame-duck session before they controlled the Senate, and gave Obama everything he ever dreamed of with a monstrosity given the sobriquet “Cromnibus” (CR = “continuing resolution,” how you fund the government when you’ve given up on proper budgeting; “Omnibus” = large spending bill funding many departments).
The nauseating details of Cromnibus may be found at The American Thinker. For our purposes here once again a brief summary is more than enough. Republicans (not Democrats, remember – at least not in name) funded the entire government (including Obama’s amnesty) through September 30, 2015 except for DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) which was only funded through the end of February. Members were given all of two days to read and understand the 1,603 pages of this legislative sausage.
Now the DHS funding was important because Republican “leadership” (John Boehner, et. al.) was claiming that by funding the rest of the government, they would be under no pressure to continue funding for DHS if Obama would not agree to a DHS funding bill that would de-fund his amnesty. However, this was a bald-faced lie designed to placate the voters who had just given the Party a majority in both Houses: in fact, the separate CR to fund DHS contained (surprise!) absolutely no provision to defund Obama’s amnesty. The GOPe’s plan was to once again give Obama a victory while pretending to fight him – another motif we should take special note of, as it was to appear again and again.
6. May 2015 – Iran Nuclear Agreement and the Corker Bill
No one with an ounce of sense expected much from the negotiations between Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with the Iranian government – Obama and Kerry both being hard-core Leftists who could not see the dangers of an terrorist-supporting Islamic state armed with nuclear weapons, and who clearly believed that any agreement was better than none – but what they actually delivered was even worse than expected, with Iran receiving sanctions relief in return for what in practice amounted to nothing.
Now the details of what Obama could or could not do legally on his own are too complicated to get into here. He might well have had the authority under existing laws to lift at least some sanctions on his own, but what he could not do was claim that his agreement represented new law, binding on the U.S. government and its citizens, unless the agreement was ratified by the Senate. For once it appeared Republicans could scarcely avoid a victory over Obama, because there was no way Obama could ever get the necessary 2/3 majority of the Senate to approve the agreement, even if the GOPe leadership collaborated with the Democrats. But trust the GOPe to find a way to defeat Conservatives and help Obama in his apparent quest to see Iran go nuclear – and the way they found is almost beyond belief.
What they did was pass H.R. 1191, popularly known as “The Corker Bill”. This act required Obama to submit any Iran agreement to both Houses of Congress (violation #1 of the Constitution), which would then vote on it as if it were ordinary legislation. However, unless both Houses voted against the agreement by simple majorities with Obama’s concurrence, or unless they voted against it by 2/3 majorities to override Obama’s veto, the agreement would become law (violation #2 of the Constitution). Let us pause to consider the incredible inversion of Constitutional requirements here.
First, international agreements are treaties, and must have 2/3 of the Senate approve them to become binding. The Constitution provides no alternate mechanism for treaty approval. Second, even ordinary legislation only becomes law when approved by simple majorities in both Houses and signed by the President or when passed by 2/3 of both Houses over his veto. In this case, “legislation” (the agreement) was to become a positive law unless 2/3 of both Houses disapproved it – an insuperably high barrier with so many Democrats in the Senate.
Now while I am not the first person to point all this out, I believe I am the first to consider what it would mean if this precedent were to be applied to general legislation: the President would be empowered to make law unless 2/3 of both Houses disapproved! It would be an enabling law almost exactly like that passed by the German Reichstag in 1933 which made Adolph Hitler effectively dictator. Even if confined only to international treaties, such a procedure is inconsistent with limited government and the separation of powers – which is why the Founders wrote the treaty provision of the Constitution they way they did.
Now of course we haven’t sunk quite that low yet, mainly because the American people would eventually understand what was going on if the practice were to become routine, whereas very few understood the Corker Bill. And let me be the first to point out something else: the particular M.O. suggests that someone other than Bob Corker cooked up this whole rotten scheme. Victory was given to Obama while attempting to preserve the illusion that Republicans were fighting him (e.g. by voting uselessly against the Iran Agreement, since they knew they could not achieve 2/3 supermajorities in both Houses). This is the M.O. of none other than Mitch McConnell, which he had used earlier in a fight over increasing the debt ceiling, and I am going to suggest that Bob Corker was merely his stooge here – the front man to perhaps make the bill seem more appealing given McConnell’s reputation for deceit and trickery. I am reminded of the musical 1776, in which John Adams wants Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence because Adams is “obnoxious and disliked,” and if he’s “the one to do it, they’ll run their quill pens through it”.
Someone should have run his quill pen through the Corker Bill, and then through Corker and McConnell while he was at it. And even after all this has been said, one question still remains: why? You could almost understand it if it were the Democrats who had pulled this unconstitutional stunt to give their man Obama a victory he could not otherwise have achieved (that is, because Democrats could not have reasonably expected to get 2/3 approval in the Senate even if they had held a majority). But this was the Republicans, the alleged opposition, the so-called “party of ‘No’”, who went far out of their way to say “Yes,” assuring Obama’s victory (and the nation’s loss, remember, as Obama had given away the store to Iran). This was not a case of “shutting down” the government, which would indeed involve a fight with the media of course on Obama’s side, and which could have hurt Republicans if they misplayed their hand as they often did in the past. This was a terrible treaty with a hostile foreign power, which surely the American people would have disapproved of once they understood its details. (Polling was all over the map, but of course many people who favored “an” Iran deal in the abstract would not have favored what Obama and Kerry actually negotiated).
What was the political downside to allowing a presumably unpopular treaty to go down in flames in the Senate? Were Republican leaders afraid that Obama would again proceed to illegally implement its provisions, revealing them as the eunuchs they undoubtedly were? Or could it have been something even worse?
I don’t approve of wiretapping generally, but really, the American people should be able to wiretap their elected leaders and find out what’s going on behind the scenes. I for one would love to know what Corker and McConnell in the Senate, and Boehner and others in the House, were saying to each other as they ignored America’s national security interests and their own oaths of office to uphold the Constitution.
7. May – July 2015 – Backroom Deal to Save the Export-Import Bank
This might almost seem like small potatoes after the sheer perfidy of helping Obama assure Iran of a nuclear weapons capability, but it highlights both the GOPe’s basic duplicity and its utter contempt for Conservative members of Congress. The discussion of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) had been held up by a group of Senators who were trying to get reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (EIB), a notorious example of “crony capitalism” which serves to funnel taxpayer money to well-connected corporations. At a Senate Republican lunch, Senator Ted Cruz asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell directly if there had been a deal to preserve EIB. McConnell was angry but denied it.
Cruz’s staff then told him that McConnell was lying. Cruz decided to give McConnell the benefit of the doubt, and voted in favor of TPA. When the bill went to the House, Cruz discovered that his staff had been right and there was a deal for the EIB. Outraged, he then called Mitch McConnell a liar – and on the floor of the Senate (7-24-2015)! (See video link here. Cruz also details some other procedural abuses by McConnell and berates the leadership for betraying the voters in the video). McConnell thus lied to his fellow Republican Senators, an example of dishonesty that should not be tolerated by Conservatives or indeed any Republican Senators.
Cruz alludes in the video to a deal being made on the House side as well. To save time I won’t go into the details, but basically Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) colluded with Republican Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn) to save the EIB. Because Republicans controlled the House, in theory they could have blocked Hoyer’s efforts, but Fincher and other E-men joined with him to file what is called a “discharge petition” forcing the matter to the House floor (42 Republicans joined with Hoyer’s 176 Democrats). Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who had refused to move the bill through committee, responded this way: “At a time when our Republican Conference is divided, this will divide it even further. Signing a discharge petition puts the minority in charge and effectively makes Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] the Speaker of the House.”
Once again the GOPe had allied itself with the Democratic Left to defeat Conservatives and Conservative policies.
More details may be had from The Hill (Rep. Denny Heck actually posted the story on his official web site).
8. Latest Omnibus Government Funding Bill (12-16-2015):
It was difficult to imagine at that point what more damage the GOPe could do to the Conservative cause before the year 2015 was out, but they managed to find a way – the Omnibus Funding Bill (H.R. 2029), which might be described as adding insult to injury, although there was in fact further injury as well. It should not have been surprising: two years before, in 2013 we had the Ryan-Murray backroom agreement, and one year earlier, in 2014, we had “Cromnibus,” both discussed earlier, but nonetheless the GOPe’s sheer chutzpah is breathtaking in once again openly capitulating to Democrats and ignoring every single Conservative concern. Here are a few highlights, or lowlights, of the 2015 Omnibus funding bill:
- Funds Obamacare (again), allowing it to further damage American health care and making it harder to repeal.
- Funds Planned Parenthood despite its selling of baby parts. This deserves special mention since despairing Conservatives were left asking, “If Republicans can’t even defund the butchers at Planned Parenthood, what can they do?” The answer would appear to be “nothing”.
- Funds sanctuary cities – so much for protecting Americans from criminal illegal aliens.
- Continues to fund Obama’s illegal amnesty for illegal aliens from last year.
- Funds Obama’s Syrian refugee resettlement program, guaranteeing we’ll have more unassimilable Muslims in our midst, at least 13% of whom support ISIS according to one poll.
- Funds F-1 Student Visa and K-1 Fianceé Visa, allowing more unscreened immigrants from suspect countries.
- Quadruples the number of H-2B visas(!) – in my view, this alone would justify horsewhipping every Congressman who voted in favor of the bill. Many people are aware of H1-B visas, the means by which American businesses are permitted to bring aliens into the country for the purpose of taking American jobs away from highly skilled workers in technical fields. The H-2B visas are probably less well known; they serve the same purpose but this time to the detriment of lower-skilled workers. That’s right – with hideous levels of sustained unemployment, especially among lower-skilled Americans, already high levels of legal immigration were not considered high enough, and more workers are to be brought into the country to compete for the few jobs that exist. The result in a static economy such as we have today can only be more unemployment and reduced wages for native Americans – and that is what Republican E-men have voted for.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R – AL), a true Conservative hero, had this to say:
“The more than 2,000 page year-end funding bill contains a dramatic change to federal immigration law that would increase by as much as four-fold the number of low-wage foreign workers provided to employers under the controversial H-2B visa program, beyond what is currently allowed,” he said. “These foreign workers are brought in exclusively to fill blue collar non-farm jobs in hotels, restaurants, construction, truck driving, and many other occupations sought by millions of Americans.”
“There is a reason that GOP voters are in open rebellion,” Sessions said. “They have come to believe that their party’s elites are not only uninterested in defending their interests but – as with this legislation, and fast-tracking the President’s international trade pact – openly hostile to them. This legislation represents a further disenfranchisement of the American voter.”
Senator Sessions might well have said “disenchantment” instead of “disenfranchisement,” but if he meant that by refusing to follow the voters’ wishes Republicans were destroying the very idea of representative government, he was certainly right: what good is voting if the people you elect don’t follow your will? (Read more at NRO, Jeff Sessions Blasts Omnibus Bill).
The Base Strikes Back: Boehner and Cantor Sacked
Conservatives, as usual, have suffered in these battles because of their lack of organization. Even so, they have scored a few significant victories, most notably defeating former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia and forcing Speaker John Boehner to resign.
In Cantor’s case, the arrogance typical of the political class and a strong primary challenger in the form of economics professor David Brat resulted in an 11-point loss in the June 2014 primary – a stunning upset for the number-two man in the GOP House leadership. The Wall Street Journal could barely hide its disappointment that the cause of Amnesty had received such a setback, but dutifully reported:
“People started to feel that Cantor was more worried about Fortune 500 companies than he was about people in his district,” [former Richmond Tea Party President Jamie Radke] said.
Now why would anyone think that about the GOP’s E-Men, just because they’re doing the Chamber of Commerce’s bidding and putting their desire for cheap labor above the interests of ordinary Americans? Cantor antagonized many by so openly refusing to listen to the concerns of the people who elected him.
Boehner’s fall, which came suddenly and unexpectedly in September 2015 (it would have been far less surprising had it occurred when the House first assembled for this term – see my Disorder in the House for what went wrong with that last-minute attempt to unseat him) was ultimately made possible by the continuing pressure of House Conservatives. Although Boehner managed to avoid showing Cantor-like arrogance – to me he always seemed like a big bag of nothing at his public appearances – his repeated capitulations to the Democrats (some of which have been documented above) ultimately led to the unprecedented filing of a Motion to Vacate the Chair in July by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C). Boehner’s grasp on power was secure enough that even this did not cause his immediate fall, but in the end he must have seen that he could save himself only with Democratic support – a humiliating prospect.
There was of course some attempt to “spin” Boehner’s fall as “voluntary,” but if Boehner had been ready to retire, he would simply have announced that he would not run for re-election in 2016 without stepping down as Speaker. No, Conservatives had lopped off Boehner’s head, but once again they seemed disorganized and uncertain what to do next. It should have been obvious that they needed to unite behind one of their own as the next Speaker, yet somehow when the dust cleared Paul Ryan had emerged as Speaker – a post we may hope is temporary.
A Clear Pattern of Behavior
Let’s list some of the common motifs we have described:
- E-men lie to Conservatives, whether fellow office-holders or voters, about their true intentions.
- The GOPe pretends to fight the Democrats, the nominal opposition, but then turns around and allies with them behind the scenes in order to defeat Conservative candidates and policies. Clearly then the GOPe prefers the Democratic Left’s policies to those of Conservatives, in some cases even where national security is involved (e.g. the Iran Agreement).
- E-men follow the dictates of the Chamber of Commerce and other large business interests (and donors) and ignore the wishes of the voters who put them into office. They have almost no interest in the Conservative agenda.
Establishment vs. Conservative
There have been many attempts to pretend that despite so much bitter infighting, including three elections in which the GOPe defeated Conservatives through scurrilous means and two in which Conservatives dethroned the two highest-ranking members of the House, the Party is somehow unified. These often take the form of “We’re all Conservatives now”-type articles by the usual suspects at NRO. Here are Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru trying unsuccessfully to understand the rise of Donald Trump to GOP frontrunner status:
“House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell came for many Republicans to exemplify what’s wrong with politics. One way to view Trump is as the complete rejection of McConnell. The Senate leader is the ultimate insider and an institutionalist. He is circumspect, thoughtful, well informed on both policy and American history, and a quiet man who is always in control of himself.”
This description of McConnell manages to say absolutely nothing – who cares if he’s a “quiet man who is always in control of himself”? The question is whether he is advancing the Conservative cause or betraying it, and to anyone judging this by the standards of rank-and-file Conservatives, the answer is obvious. It is only those who seem to think that “conservatism” means conserving the status quo instead of classical liberalism and the values that made it possible who would have any trouble answering.
Note too the ersatz objectivity in pretending there’s some doubt about where the truth lies:
“House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell came for many Republicans to exemplify what’s wrong with politics.”
So far so good, but still not good enough unless you stop equivocating and come right out and say whether these “many Republicans” were right or wrong. The fact is that Boehner and McConnell do exemplify what’s wrong with politics – at least Republican politics – and if Lowry and Ponnuru truly intended to “stand athwart history shouting ‘Stop!” they needed to say so. The truth is, and it will come as no surprise to ST readers, that the Establishment has plenty of enablers and apologists in the “conservative” press. Some of them take the “We’re all Conservatives now” line, while the more militant ones go so far as to claim that E-men are the true Conservatives!
But “Conservative” and “Establishment” are two very different things, and the task before us is to unfailingly remember that and act accordingly. The GOP Civil War, which so many deny even exists, is in fact the most crucial political struggle taking place in America today. America is being destroyed by statism, and already has one party wholly dedicated to absolute rule. Its other party, the GOP, is divided between E-men who agree with the Democrats’ statist premises but attempt to reject that Party’s radicalism and Conservatives who reject those premises completely and who wish to restore freedom and limited government. If the Establishment wins, effective one-party rule will have come to America, and after that collapse into dictatorship will come probably more quickly than most imagine possible. If Conservatives win, we can then begin the struggle against the Democratic Left – a struggle the GOPe doesn’t care to make, much less win.
Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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