Last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner suddenly announced that he will very soon retire from Congress. While I wished he would have made some different decisions as Speaker, I am not among those taking pleasure in his resignation, which comes at a time when there is great disagreement among Republican legislators in Washington about the correct way to approach both advancing their own goals and opposing those of Barack Obama and the Democrats. Many Republican voters, meanwhile, are very frustrated with a situation where, even with majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans on Capitol Hill not only are unable to actually enact any conservative legislation but often seem unwilling to even try to stand up to the President. This has resulted in particular dissatisfaction with Republican leaders in Congress and talk of challenges to their positions if they do not change their methods, and this is the atmosphere in which Mr. Boehner elected to step down.
I do see that Republican lawmakers are in a difficult position. As long as Barack Obama is in the White House ready to veto any bills he doesn’t like and the Republicans do not have enough votes to override his veto, the chance of actually enacting any conservative legislation or undoing some of the liberal policies already implemented by this president is practically nonexistent. It seems, then, that the questions for Republicans involve how much time and effort it is worth expending on various measures when real success is not currently possible, and whether speaking out on particular issues and/or using certain tactics is likely to help or hurt the cause and/or the party in the short or long run.
Personally, I certainly would prefer it if those on our side would show some more fight in Congress, and I am very disappointed every time I hear that the Republicans are backing down or preemptively announcing that they will lose a battle with Barack Obama and the other Democrats. I would think it would be a good thing, in general, for Republicans to be presenting their arguments for the policies they support on the floor in Congress and in media appearances, and I wouldn’t think it should be a negative to actually pass some plans of their own, even if the President vetoes them. That being said, I am not going to automatically brand all of the elected leaders and other legislators who believe they should act with more caution as weak and/or unconservative. They have more experience with the details of these matters than I do, and they might be correct in fearing the way the electorate might react to more open conflict with Barack Obama and the rest of his party. I can especially understand concern about making any challenges in the context of budget bills needed to fund the government, since the Democrats and the media love to tell everyone how something the Republicans did or might do necessitates all sorts of cutbacks or closures of government operations. What I do not really comprehend, though, is the reason the Republicans don’t push back against that narrative.
For example, the current issue prompting discussion of a possible showdown concerns federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Especially in light of the recently released videos of people connected with this group saying horrifying things, most conservatives feel strongly that Planned Parenthood should be kept from receiving any federal taxpayer money. Some wanted to attempt this by removing such funding from the next continuing budget resolution, but the leadership and others were against that because such a resolution would not survive an encounter with Barack Obama’s famous pen. At that point, with no signed bill to authorize funds for government operations, the torrent of accusations about Republicans “shutting down the government” because of their “extremist” views would be unleashed.
But, let’s step back and consider this for a minute, shall we? If the Republican Congress crafts and passes a budget bill and Barack Obama vetoes it and then makes a show of closing national parks and memorials and halting other popular government activities, how does it make sense to say that the Republicans have shut down the government?? Clearly, that choice would have been made by the President. Shouldn’t he then be asked to explain how such a “drastic” action is justified by his desire to continue to force taxpayers to provide money to Planned Parenthood despite the group’s involvement in gruesome (and possibly illegal) practices related to fetal dismemberment and organ trafficking and why reallocating the money that would have gone to Planned Parenthood (a reliable Democratic political donor) to other, non-controversial groups that provide health care services is not good enough? Would Obama’s defense of such positions really make the Republicans look extreme and unreasonable?? Of course, Barack Obama’s opposition to any limitations at all related to abortion is so absolute that there is probably no chance whatsoever that he would resist vetoing any bill defunding Planned Parenthood. But, if Republicans can get the facts about Planned Parenthood and the undercover videos out to the public, maybe hearing Obama and other Democrats trying to defend the indefensible will make some voters more receptive to the messages of pro-life Republicans, hopefully including next year’s presidential nominee.
To accommodate those still fearful of the potential biased "government shutdown" stories that might result if Planned Parenthood’s funds are removed from the budget resolution, it might be possible to try to achieve the same things with stand-alone legislation to reallocate the money. However, with the decreased risk would probably also come reduced opportunity for progress, as, without the “shutdown,” there would presumably be less media coverage, less pressure on Barack Obama to explain a veto, and, therefore, less of a chance to persuade the public. Putting forth a serious effort to make the case for such legislation, though, would still be far better than just surrendering and letting the liberals have their way.
I realize that “the public” at large may well see things completely differently than I do, especially with some nudging from the media -- after all, they routinely elect people like Barack Obama to powerful offices. Still, when the Republicans are clearly in the right on an issue, like the defunding of Planned Parenthood, it would be nice if they would at least try to achieve some success once in a while. Even if confronting the Democrats about this topic would somehow wind up hurting the GOP with some “moderate” or independent voters, I think that declining to do so could actually be more damaging to their future electoral chances, since many conservatives already feel so discouraged and frustrated by what they see as inaction in Washington.
Whoever winds up succeeding John Boehner as Speaker, I hope that, in the future, Republicans in both the House and the Senate will be able to be much more effective at advocating for conservative positions and, eventually, getting those policies codified in law.