• Newsletters
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
°
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
View complete forecast
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Only actions, not promises or excuses, can preserve GOP's majority

Photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, addresses reporters at Allen County Republican headquarters Wednesday after announcing he will be a candidate next year for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Donnelly. (Photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel.)
Photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, addresses reporters at Allen County Republican headquarters Wednesday after announcing he will be a candidate next year for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Donnelly. (Photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel.)
Todd Young
Todd Young
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, August 10, 2017 12:01 am

As Todd Rokita toured the state Wednesday to explain why he should be Indiana's next U.S. senator, his sales pitch in Fort Wayne and eight other cities would have been immediately familiar to any conservative Republican.

"Defeat the elite," urged the sign on the podium at Allen County GOP headquarters as the 4th District U.S. Rep. implored supporters to help him "drain the swamp" and pass an ambitious legislative agenda that includes tax reform, regulatory rollbacks and — of course — the repeal and replacement of  Obamacare.

"Hoosiers can trust I will get things done," he insisted before hurrying off to his next stop in Elkhart.

But to voters who last November rewarded such appealing promises with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, familiarity may soon breed contempt if Republican politicians don't start matching their rhetoric with accomplishments.

"I'm not under any illusion about our ability to advance our agenda when there us a united opposition," freshman GOP Sen. Todd Young told me Wednesday just an hour or so before Rokita implied otherwise. And if that doesn't breed confusion and even cynicism in the party's base, Young's suggestion that unity among Democrats somehow mitigates his party's disunity just might.

As a conservative, I don't doubt Young was right when he suggests the nation is better off having been spared another Clinton presidency and that President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans can claim some victories, such as tougher immigration enforcement, regulatory reform and, most of all, the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Young expects similar success as Congress turns its attention to reform of the tax code and investment in infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the perception among many Republican voters is that candidates on whom they bestowed victory and majority status continue to govern as a minority party — a perception reinforced by the insistence that the GOP's recent under-performance is nevertheless preferable to Democratic effectiveness. Even if true, such an argument is beside the point: Why should a majority party be content to play defense when it should be on offense?

The GOP's self-inflicted Obamacare debacle epitomizes the problem. Democrats and President Obama passed the bill in 2010 without a single Republican vote, and Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace it ever since. But even though the House voted to do so this year the a Senate attempt last month failed by a single vote.

"I fulfilled my promise; I voted to repeal and replace," Young said as he acknowledged Congress' obligation to somehow "take care of people put into a fundamentally flawed system. The politics will be equally bad if (Obamacare) implodes."

I don't mean to be overly critical of Young or Rokita. Both seem like decent, sincere men who mean what they say. But that's the point: governing is a complicated and messy business, and promises made by individuals do not bind the entire federal bureaucracy, even when it is — at least on paper — under one party's control.

Sometimes world events intervene, as in the current crisis over North Korea. "I hope it is resolved peacefully, but we need to keep the military option on the table. There's a heightened sense of urgency," Young said. Sometimes various other interests get in the way, which is why Rokita promised to challenge "elites" in both parties.

Young said he's not ready to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" that would allow the Senate to pass a bill by a simple majority. I would probably support such a tactic, since either party should be judged by the success or failure of its policies. But such an assessment is difficult when arcane parliamentary rules thwart majority rule. On the other hand, those parliamentary rules required Senate Republicans to achieve only a bare majority of 51 votes in last  month's Obamacare vote, not the filibuster-proof 60 the democrats achieved. And still they failed.

How can three Republican defections possibly be the Democrats' fault?

"First, you have to win the argument. Then you win the electorate," Young said, looking forward to next year's congressional races. His party already has the majority, but keeping it will require a demonstration of the ability to do more than minimize somebody else's damage.

The issues provide plenty of opportunity to do so, but the clock is less generous.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

Comments

News-Sentinel.com reserves the right to remove any content appearing on its website. Our policy will be to remove postings that constitute profanity, obscenity, libel, spam, invasion of privacy, impersonation of another, or attacks on racial, ethnic or other groups. For more information, see our user rules page.
comments powered by Disqus