Today is a monumentally important day that is being treated as a fait accompli by the Beltway ruling class and its partners, the legacy media. This morning, the Congress is scheduled to select its leaders for the coming session. If all goes according to plan, Republicans will double down on stupid – ignoring the conservatives who gave them control of the House and reappointing the same leadership team that turned the triumph of 2010 into the disaster of 2012.
In the historic 2010 midterm elections, conservatives gave Republicans a chance to prove that they’d repented of their huge-spending nanny-state ways. It was not that conservatives were won over by a Republican establishment that, during the Bush years, had run up an astounding $5 trillion of debt while creating new entitlements and launching an ill-conceived experiment in sharia-democracy building. Instead, it was that we needed to stop Obama’s doubly expensive gallop to the left, to a post-American rejection of our liberty culture. In the short term, Republicans were the only game in town.
Over the long haul, however, there were two alternatives: Either (a) the Republican party would prove that it had become an effective vehicle for advocating and using its power to begin putting into effect the dramatic change necessary to reverse – not just halt, reverse – the debt abyss and the metastasis of the central government; or (b) the Republican party would prove that it was not up to this challenge, would substitute lame excuses (“We only control one-half of one-third of the government”) for steely spines, and would therefore demonstrate that conservatives would be better off abandoning the GOP and establishing a new vehicle.
We’ve now seen enough to draw a conclusion: the Republican party says what it believes must be said to entice conservative votes at election time, but it is not remotely serious about implementing limited government policies or dealing with the two central challenges of our age, existentially threatening deficit spending and Islamic supremacism.
Under the leadership of progressive-lite House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow professional Washington moderates in the GOP Senate leadership, congressional Republicans agreed to budgeting that internalized into its baselines Obama’s exorbitant stimulus spending. They signed off on a reckless extension of the government’s line of credit to an astounding $16.4 trillion, then cynically insulted our intelligence by attempting to obscure and deny their approval of it – and presently, they are laying the groundwork to raise this “debt ceiling” it to a mind-boggling $19 trillion, the next stop on the road to $22 trillion and beyond. As Mark Steyn observes, the federal government now borrows a staggering $188 billion per
hour day, adding $1 trillion to the debt every nine months. Contrary to what the GOP tells you, none of this could happen without the approval of the Republican-controlled House.
To get some perspective, it took over 200 years for the country to run up $5 trillion in debt. Under current Republican leadership, $5 trillion was added in just the eight years of the Bush administration. Another $5-plus trillion has been added in just four years under Obama. With over a trillion dollars in purportedly “extraordinary” stimulus spending now baked in the ordinary budget cake, Leviathan’s spending now doubles the $1.9 trillion stratosphere it hit just eleven years ago. In the Bush years, the GOP zoomed it to $3 trillion before the economy tanked in 2007-08, largely thanks to the bipartisan insanity of financing mortgages for people who couldn’t afford them. On the current trajectory pushed by Obama with Republican acquiescence – and without accounting for catastrophes both foreseeable (e.g., a rise in interest rates, war, the real costs of Obamacare) and unforeseen – expenditures will top $4.5 trillion at the end of Obama’s second term.
Yes, Obama is driving this suicide train, but he has lots of company up front. The vaunted Ryan budget plan – over which Republicans thump their chests – would escalate spending to $4.9 trillion by 2022. It claims what Republicans always claim: they’re going to get serious … tomorrow … or maybe the next day – or the next decade. Indeed, Congressman Ryan would balance the federal budget by … wait for it … 2040. That is, in some future decade, long after many of us die fat and happy on the stolen prosperity of our children and grandchildren, the skies will open and the mythical disciplined political class will descend to impose responsible governance. Until then, Party on dudes! And never you mind that as Ryan and Boehner and McConnell and the rest well know, today’s session of Congress cannot bind future Congresses. The guys who can’t even control 2013 never have any trouble telling you how well they’ve arranged things to run in 2040.
In weaving their story that Obama alone is the catalyst of our crisis, the Republican establishment counts on the constitutional illiteracy of the electorate. The inescapable fact, however, is that all taxing and spending bills enacted by the federal government must originate in the House. The GOP’s all purpose abdication mantra, “We’re only one-half of one-third of the government,” would be laughable if our straits were not so dire. When was the last time you heard the left-leaning bloc of Supreme Court justices say, “We can’t impose our policy preferences on the country. After all, we’re only one-half of one-third of the government”? When was the last time President Obama restrained himself from issuing executive orders conferring, say, privileges on illegal aliens, by explaining that he is only is only one-third of the government (a third, mind you, with zero constitutional authority confer anything).
In constitutional law, the pertinent issue is never what percentage of total power is allocated to a branch. The question is: Which branch is given supremacy over the relevant subject matter. On the subject matter of taxing and spending – including the task of setting the parameters of the government’s authority to borrow and spend – Congress is supreme and the House has pride of place. It is certainly true that congressional Republicans cannot force President Obama to sign bills and cannot, given the number of Democrats in both chambers, expect to override presidential vetoes. Nevertheless, spending requires legislative authority that originates in the House. It is not a matter of executive diktat. President Obama would not have a dime to spend unless the House and the Senate agreed to give it to him. The government could not borrow more money for President Obama to spend unless the House and the Senate both authorized the borrowing.
It is not that Republicans are powerless to tackle our debt crisis. It is that they lack the will. Just as they are stuck politically in 1964 – having forgotten the Reagan landslides, they’ve convinced themselves that embracing conservatism leads inevitably to Goldwater thumpings – Republicans are frozen in 1995 when it comes to spending. Even though the national debt is now well over three times (soon to be four times) what it was when Bill Clinton and the pre-Fox media successfully demagogued them for shutting down the government, the Republican establishment clearly believes it lacks the competence to make a convincing public case that there is no more money left.
On that, perhaps, we should agree – it is time to explore other options.
The spendaholic government that the Republican establishment has colluded with Democrats to give us has created a debacle in which mandatory spending (entitlements plus interest on the debt) now outstrips revenues by a quarter of a trillion dollars (and rising fast). That is, we are already in a perennial, structural $250 billion debt hole before the government proceeds to pile on its enormous discretionary spending – including $700 billion in military spending and added tens of billions in other national security spending that Republicans would increase if given their druthers, along with another $600 billion and change spread over an endless array of matters that Republicans, in apparent agreement with Democrats, have decided that the states and the people cannot handle without federal instruction.
The Middle East, meanwhile, is aflame. A heavy contributing factor is the American policy of embracing and empowering the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamists allies, very much including al Qaeda. The Brotherhood is a committed enemy of the United States. In 2007-08, the Justice Department proved that it considers the destruction of Western Civilization from within to be its principal mission in the United States.
In 2011, President Obama launched an unprovoked war in Libya against the Qaddafi regime, which Republicans had been telling us for eight years had mended its ways and become an American ally – such that Republicans in Congress supported transfers of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Tripoli. Obama’s Libya war was guaranteed to put Islamists in power and put Qaddafi’s arsenal at the disposal of violent jihadists. By refusing to foot the bill, congressional Republicans could have aborted this counter-productive aggression – in the conduct of which the administration consulted the U.N. and the Arab League but not the branch of the U.S. government vested by the Constitution with the power to declare and pay for war. Instead, Republicans lined up behind their transnational progressive wing, led by Senator John McCain, which champions the chimera of sharia-democracy – McCain called the Islamists of Benghazi his “heroes.”
That pro-Islamist policy is directly responsible for the heedlessness of establishing an American consulate in Benghazi. It led to the attacks on our consulate and the British consulate, and ultimately to the terrorist murder of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya (weeks after British diplomats had the good sense to leave town).
The scandal brings into sharp relief an alarming fact that has long been obvious: notwithstanding their abhorrence of America and the West, Islamists are exerting profound influence on our government. Known Islamists and officials with undeniable Islamist connections have infiltrated the government’s policy councils; simultaneously, American policy has moved steadily in favor Islamists – such that the government supports and funds Muslim Brotherhood affiliates that are hostile to us; colludes with these Islamists in purging from agent training materials information demonstrating the undeniable nexus between Islamic doctrine and jihadist terror; collaborates with these Islamists in the effort to impose repressive sharia blasphemy restrictions on our free speech rights; and, we now learn, knowingly misleads the American people on the cause of murderous Islamist tirades, of which the atrocity in Benghazi is only the most recent example.
A few months back, long before these policies resulted in the killing of our American officials in Libya, and even before these policies abetted the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt (albeit after these policies assured our NATO “ally” Turkey that there would be no blowback for openly supporting Hamas), five conservative Republicans called for an investigation of Islamist influence on our government. Five members of the House – i.e., less than one percent of the Congress – was willing to stand up and confront a profound threat to American national security. The Republican establishment had the opportunity to back them, to prove that the GOP could at least be serious about a profound threat to our national security. Instead, senior Republicans – the Islamist-friendly transnational progressives to whom the party disastrously looks for foreign policy leadership – castigated the five. Speaker Boehner followed suit.
As the weeks went on, and event after event proved the five conservatives right and the apologists for Islamists wrong, the Republican establishment went mum. When the Islamist empowerment strategy coupled with the Obama administration’s shocking failure to defend Americans under siege resulted in the Benghazi massacre, the Republican establishment was given a rare gift: an opportunity, in the decisive stretch-run of a close presidential contest, to exhibit national security seriousness and distinguish themselves from Obama’s dereliction of duty. To the contrary, Gov. Romney and his top advisors decided to go mum on Benghazi; and congressional Republicans essentially delegated their response to Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham – the very “Islamic democracy” enthusiasts who had championed U.S. intervention on the side of Libyan jihadists in the first place (only after having championed the American embrace of Qaddafi).
This has to stop. The current crop of Republican leaders has shown no stomach for the fight. In fact, notwithstanding that President Obama lost a remarkable ten million votes from 2008 in his narrow reelection last week (i.e., 13 percent of his support), House Speaker John Boehner is treating him as if he has a mandate to continue his failed policies – as if the country and its representatives have no choice but to roll over on the immensely unpopular Obamacare law and concede on feeding Leviathan even more revenue and borrowing authority without deep cuts in spending (see Jeff Lord’s account, here); as if the country shares Boehner’s insouciance about the Islamist threat.
By reappointing Boehner and his leadership colleagues today, Republicans are telling us that their answer to failure is more of the same. They have a right to make that choice, but there is no reason why Americans who are serious about our challenges should follow along. The Republican establishment is content with more government, more debt, and more entanglement with our enemies. When called on it, they tell us they are powerless to stem the tide. But the problem is the lack of will and a sense of urgency, not lack of power. It is time to find a new vehicle to lead the cause of limited, fiscally responsible, constitutional government. The Republicans are telling us they are unwilling to be that vehicle. If that is the case, it is time to move on.
Andrew C. McCarthy is the author of the New York Times bestsellersThe Grand Jihad and Willful Blindness. He is a contributing editor at National Review and co-chairs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He also writes the Ordered Liberty blog at PJMedia.com.