Of course, it wasn’t just conservatives who were upset. The day really belonged to Nancy Pelosi, who took control of the Narrative by opposing both President Obama and the Republican leadership, ostensibly because the bill gave too many concessions to Wall Street. [Nancy Pelosi lost on the Cromnibus vote. But she made her point, by Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post, December 11, 2014]
While there was significant Republican opposition, it was mostly Republican votes that passed the bill. 162 Republicans supported it, with 67 voting against; Democrats largely opposed it, with 139 voting against and 52 voting yes. That in and of itself was enough for Open Borders corporate lobbyist, uh, “limited government advocate” Grover Norquist to call it a victory.
But now the Republicans own this bill. And what kind of a victory have they won?
The bill authorized $1.014 trillion in spending and prevents a government shutdown that would have begun at midnight. It didn’t do anything about Obamnesty, Obamacare, or any of the other things that Republicans supposedly care about. But it contained plenty of goodies for the usual suspects:
This is precisely what an enemy of the Republican Party would expect —handouts to banks and wealthy donors, combined with a thoughtless political move that will anger the very libertarian-leaning voters who keep costing Republicans elections.
But am I being too hard on the GOP? After all, this may have been the wrong time to force a government shutdown.
Ann Coulter, who can hardly be called a squish on the immigration issue, warned precisely against overreaching. After the GOP victory, she noted the Party had one more chance. However, to take advantage of it, “The establishment has to drop amnesty and the tea party has got to drop—for now—demands for government shutdowns to repeal Obamacare.”
Coulter is right that the Republican Party might get the blame for a government shutdown. And Speaker Boehner is indeed promising a “direct challenge” to Obama’s immigration orders next month, “when there will be new Republican majorities in both chambers.” [Boehner: GOP Will Make ‘Direct Challenge’ Of Obama’s Immigration Orders Next Month, by Joel Gehrke, National Review, December 11, 2014]
But, again, take a step back and view the larger political significance of the “Cromnibus” bill. Once again, the Republican Party shied away from confronting a popular issue that is designated “controversial” in the eyes of the Main Stream Media while at the same time it energetically supported economically regressive policies that don’t appeal to working class or middle class voters—precisely the kind of policies that make it easy to paint the Party as a tool of the rich.
Did the GOP Establishment learn nothing from the Romney debacle?
Barack Obama personally intervened to scrape up enough Democrats to pass the bill, knowing it didn’t threaten his core interests [With push from Obama, House passes spending bill to avert shutdown, by Lisa Mascaro, Christi Parsons, and Michael Memoli, Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2014] Yet, because it was Republican votes that passed the bill, it is still tied to the GOP more than to the Democrats.
More importantly, even while Obama avoided a challenge on immigration, Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren were both able to stake out a position as populist champions while painting Republicans as the tools of Wall Street. Warren is especially dangerous as she is emerging as the populist alternative on the Left to Hillary Clinton. [All About That Wall Street Giveaway That Elizabeth Warren Hates, by Erika Eichelberger, Mother Jones, December 11, 2014]
Even if the Republican Party’s best interest is to avoid a shutdown at this time, the GOP has just ceded the “populist” image to the Democrats. For immigration patriots, this is an especially infuriating because it undercuts the ability to fight mass immigration by framing the issue around jobs, income inequality, and corporate exploitation—as Senator Jeff Sessions has been doing with increasing success.
The Republican Party was outmaneuvered. Indeed, since the election, it seems like the GOP, now the ostensible “majority” in Congress, barely has an impact on the way that government functions.
Of course, we have an assurance by Speaker John Boehner that a “direct confrontation” is coming. The problem is that we know Speaker Boehner wants an Amnesty/Immigration Surge and simply wants to avoid punishment by the conservative grassroots. Rather than a real “challenge,” we’re more likely to get posturing.
Still, there is ground for hope. Speaker Boehner’s leadership is not secure, as he essentially was bailed out by President Obama in order to pass this bill. Some Republicans are charging that their own leadership lied to them in order to obtain their vote. [GOP Rep: House Leaders Made False Promise to Get My Crucial Vote, National Review, December 12, 2014] And Senator Jeff Sessions is vowing, “We are going to fight harder than we ever have before. Those who think that this issue will recede, or fade away, are mistaken.”
The Speaker had to pull out the stops for something that a stronger and wiser leader could have taken for granted. The GOP base is infuriated and melted the switchboard on Capitol Hill just as it did in prior amnesty votes. And Jeff Sessions seems determined to renew his battle to turn the GOP into a pro-worker, National Conservative party.
The passage of CRomnibus was a defeat and the smuggling-through of the banking and campaign finance regulations a political disaster. Once again, immigration patriots are in the unfortunate position of having to save the Stupid Party from its own leadership.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.