AUGUST 30, 2017
8/30/2017 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr
With college football booting up for another season this weekend, many are hoping to head back to their alma mater for some action on the gridiron. Imagine, however, waiting months for the chance (or for some, years), and spending hundreds on tickets, only to see your beloved home team taking a knee early in the first quarter. Betrayal might be a kind word to describe the feeling of watching such non-performance on the field.
The same could describe the performance of congressional Republicans since January. After playing defense for eight years under Obama, it seems Republicans have completely forgotten what to do now that they finally have the ball. Instead of driving it down the field, they appear more comfortable taking a knee, and running out the clock. Normally this is a “victory formation,” but for Republicans it is the formation of defeatists who appear to actually fear going on offense.
It is time for fans to start making some noise. Loudly.
None of what the Republicans have done in the last eight months (which, to reiterate, has been nothing), has come close to the hype of the post-election fervor. Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare, tackle tax reform, and if they had time among all their “winning,” perhaps pass some pro-Second Amendment legislation for a change.
Republicans could not help but feel excited for the future where Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. Now was the time to show the nation the Republican vision and their solutions that were not possible under Obama. Now was their chance for glory.
Instead, after the hype has died down and the cheerleaders have left the field after the pre-game festivities, it is unclear if the home team is going to pass anything of note at all.
To be sure, the failure to pass Obamacare repeal bruised many egos on the Hill, and served as a national embarrassment in the media. It also piqued the ire of President Trump (not hard to do), who has largely given Congress the cold shoulder when asked to cooperate on a legislative agenda other than Obamacare. However, in our system of government, the onus is not on Trump to conceive of, and pass, the litany of much needed legislation long-promised by Republican leaders; this is the practical – and the constitutional – responsibility of the Congress.
Obamacare is far from the only serious issue facing America, and it is time for congressional Republicans to stop sulking in their healthcare defeat, and take advantage of the opportunity handed them by the votes last November. Otherwise, as the saying goes, just “get off the field,” and put in players who have the vision and the guts for victory.
Perhaps to Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Paul Ryan, victory only comes in the form of grandiose, complex, and much publicized packages like Obamacare – the kind worked on behind closed doors, where special interest groups rather than pesky voters have seats at the table. In this type of game, smaller victories, like passing specific initiatives such as national concealed carry reciprocity (H.R.38), or firearm sound suppressor legislation (H.R.367), are too nuanced for their time, regardless of what it means to the citizens who put them in office. Consequently, nothing gets done.
Meanwhile, seconds continue to tick off the game clock.
What about tax reform, or balancing the budget? It has been decades since the GOP even bothered to talk about what used to be its bread and butter. McConnell does not hesitate to press for raising the debt ceiling again – something his party always took shots at Obama for forcing them to do – but dare to approach the challenge of fiscal responsibility? Once again, the knee hits the ground.
It is still early in the game, but it is only a matter of time before the window of opportunity to accomplish anything of note closes for Republicans. At their pace, they will have all but squandered a historic opportunity for conservative reform.
What will it take for McConnell and Ryan to get their team motivated to play? Perhaps, a change in coaching staff, dumping them both for more inspirational and charismatic leaders, able to vocalize the vision that has been missing. Perhaps outside organizations like FreedomWorks, the NRA, Heritage and others can help with the heavy lifting by providing a punch list of legislation and some lobbying muscle to get it done. Or, perhaps, hearing a chorus of boos from fans will remind them that playing lethargic defense is just not going to cut it. Whatever it is, it is needed fast. Otherwise, Republicans are going to hit the four-year mark with a big, fat goose-egg on the scoreboard, and will face a Democratic offense with rested legs and a thirst for revenge; and they know how to go for the jugular.