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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Heinous spending bill leaves frustrated conservatives soul-searching

Rand Paul for president in 2020?

It’s a little soon to declare for a primary challenger to President Donald Trump, yet after last week’s total fiasco with the federal budget many conservatives are doing some serious soul-searching to determine the most Trump White Houseadvantageous path forward.

The dictionary defines “soul-searching” as: deep and anxious consideration of one's emotions and motives or of the correctness of a course of action, or involving or expressing deep consideration.

What seemed like an appealing idea in 2015 and 2016 – choosing an accomplished outsider businessman as the best means of draining the disease infested DC swamp – isn’t turning out so swell in reality. Trump remains a terrific spokesman for the conservative/populist “Make America Great Again” agenda but in practice he’s showing little of the knock-down-drag-it-out war he swore he’d wage on official Washington in pursuit of those ideas.

If you elect me president we’re going to win so much you’ll get tired of it,” Trump frequently boasted on the 2016 campaign trail. When it comes to the budget, however, conservatives are bone weary of losing. Where’s the winning, Mr. President?

Trump the showman is a legendary entertainer and he knows how to work a crowd but his political instincts aren’t impressing anyone these days. Forget all the tweets and the media hubbub over the Russian collusion/Mueller/deep state investigations, Trump’s number one mistake was his apparent snuggling up with the GOP establishment leaders in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader (for now) Mitch McConnell acknowledged on Friday that he literally begged Sen. Paul and another Republican member of the upper chamber to withdraw their procedural objections to the budget monstrosity so as to avoid another government shutdown, however brief.

Even though no senator read the entire bill everyone agreed it would pass -- so why the delay? Tennessee RINO Sen. Bob Corker complained about the late hours, though he did make a decent point while doing so – Corker suggested the leaders purposely keep senators in their offices until they’re all so exhausted they’ll vote for anything just to get relief.

That’s how our government works, folks. Sleep deprivation and endless browbeating by the political leadership to weaken the resistance of elected lawmakers who oppose spending our country into oblivion. Almost sounds like water boarding is preferable, doesn’t it?

Only we’re the ones feeling the pain. Needless to say Paul wasn’t a popular man for his lonely crusade to insist on budget sanity.

Burgess Everett of Politico reported, “The will-he-or-won’t-he cause a momentary shutdown was a familiar play from Paul. He loves using Senate rules to draw attention to his causes — even if it means agitating the people he goes to work with everyday. He has filibustered nominees, briefly caused a surveillance program to lapse and, in February, refused to give GOP leaders consent to vote on a funding bill before the funding deadline, causing a brief shutdown.

“There was no concerted effort at the Republican lunch Thursday to persuade Paul to back down, attendees said. But GOP leaders and individual senators tried to prevail on Paul to play nice.

“’It’s fair to say that it’s fine to make a statement,’ said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who dislikes the spending increases in the bill but was eager to vote on it. ‘There’s no benefit to waiting at this point. We should go ahead and get it done.’”

It is finished” Christ said on the cross moments before completing his ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. “Getting it done” is apparently the goal in the (very human) Senate. Sad.

Paul’s refusal to “play nice” with his colleagues may make him a pariah in the marble halls of the Capitol building but it’s earned the Kentucky senator well-deserved distinction in the minds of the conservative grassroots as one of a handful of Republicans who actually believes in something. The truth is, the longer Paul delayed the vote the more time there’d be for grassroots groups to register their displeasure with such irresponsible government outrages and hopefully throw a little scare into the leadership at the same time.

As was the case last month Paul’s main objection to the spending bill was the secret manner in which it was thrown together by party leaders, the utter lack of time to read it and understand it and the inability of senators to introduce amendments that could potentially soften the worst provisions – or eliminate them entirely.

If ever there was a validation of how hopelessly corrupted the legislative process is it’s this spending bill. Every promise Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell made to open up the process for members’ and senators’ input was broken here. Ryan and McConnell correctly figured they wouldn’t have enough Republican votes to pass it so they sweetened the deal for Democrats by funding all of their priorities. Democrats happily went along with it – here they find themselves in the minority yet are still able to fund all their big government boondoggles. It’s sick.

Meanwhile Trump’s MAGA agenda received next to nothing in the bargain – no money for more ICE agents to enforce the immigration laws (on employers who hire illegal aliens), no money for the concrete wall Trump wanted and plenty of cash for every liberal domestic program the Democrats savor. For Democrats it was the embodiment of having your cake and eating it too.

What did Republicans get for their end? Additional billions for the military. While it’s certainly open for discussion as to the necessity to spend more on national defense, fiscal-minded conservatives see the bloated bottom line and wonder when the largesse will ever stop.

Trump threatened to veto the bill but the swamp swallowed him up before he was able to carry through with it. Politico reported, “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were key in convincing Trump not to veto the legislation, according to a source familiar with conversations between congressional leaders and the president.

“Speaker Paul Ryan also put in a call to Trump from Wisconsin. He had already flown home for the recess and dialed him up to remind him of the GOP wins in the omnibus and encouraged him to sign the bill.

“A source familiar with the conversation said both Ryan and Trump felt better after the talk, suggesting Ryan knew the president was starting to understand the importance of averting a shutdown.”

Hence the ruling class once again suckered Trump into going against his better instincts. A good lot of them, including Ryan, were already out of town or preparing to head to the airport. Some were overseas. If Trump vetoed the bill the government would’ve shut down and all of them would’ve ended their Easter break early to fly back to Washington to deal with an unhappy president and actually do their jobs. The anguish would have been terrible!

Instead our representatives and senators are all home (or abroad) comfortable in their positions with little or no guilt to be found anywhere.

Mattis made it sound like additional money was vitally necessary for the military -- now – a federal department head demanding more pork is not exactly rare. America needs more “soul-searching” to determine whether all the current overseas commitments are really necessary. Must we continue to spend away our futures (and threaten our own financial footing) protecting countries (NATO, South Korea, Japan) that are more than capable of defending themselves?

As would be expected Democrats swore if Trump vetoed their goody-bags they wouldn’t be so accommodating towards his aims the next time around – as if the bill could get any worse. Shutdown-shutdown-shutdown – all Democrats ever have to do is make the threat and the GOP establishment congressional leaders dance to their tune like monkeys to an organ grinder. What a shameless bunch of cowards to feel threatened by the minority party just because Democrats act like a classroom full of kindergarteners who refuse to take naps until they get their ice cream.

Early in his presidency Trump appeared to understand that the only way to get meaningful progress on spending reform was to call the Democrats’ bluff on a shutdown. At some point a lengthy government work stoppage may be necessary to force both sides to make their arguments – and let the public decide.

Otherwise, what’s the use of electing Republicans?

Naturally the swamp feigned horror when Trump suggested “a good shutdown” was necessary to move lawmakers last May. At the time he also criticized the 60-vote threshold for spending bills – and he did so again on Friday when explaining why he would never again sign a bill like this one. We can only hope Trump means it (this time) but we’re also at a loss to explain why the president hasn’t already kept his promises to push Congress to the brink to act responsibly.

Republican candidates have little choice but to run against leadership later this year – and if things don’t change rapidly, against Trump himself. If leaders don’t show more competence and fight for limited government priorities they must be replaced. It’s our only hope. GOP office seekers can’t hope to compete with Democrats when it comes to offering government treats.

Meanwhile internal strife continues in the White House.

Andrew Restuccia of Politico reported, “Forget senior White House staffers, outside advisers, friends and others ‘close’ to the president. There’s only one person who truly knows what Donald Trump is thinking at any given moment: Donald Trump.

“The president’s surprise Friday morning tweet threatening to veto a $1.3 trillion government funding bill — and subsequent reversal in a matter of hours — capped another week in which Trump’s impulsive decisions undermined his exasperated staff.

“Tensions were running high in the White House on Friday, especially on the communications team, as staff scrambled to figure out whether the president really intended to veto the bill or was just blustering. There is growing concern in the West Wing that the president’s unpredictable behavior is undercutting staffers’ credibility, according to two people who have spoken to White House officials in recent days.”

Call me insensitive but who cares about the “credibility” of the communications staff? If reports are true, Trump was considering a veto up until the final moments -- it’s what he should have done to send a message that things must change in Washington. If some White House communications staffer ends up with egg on his face because he’d told the media something different a few hours before, so be it.

Truth be told, the place needs to be shaken up. Stagnant water breeds mosquitoes and slime – that’s why the DC swamp is the way it is.

These folks don’t need our sympathy and the endless media reports of turmoil in the west wing are increasingly falling on deaf ears. The staff works for the president – he makes the decisions, not them. Administration policy is made by Trump, just as it was made by Obama and George W. Bush before him. If there’s anything that appears to be working these days it’s Trump’s willingness to cut the dead weight from the White House (including H.R. McMaster).

Donald Trump hates to lose but that’s exactly what’s happening with the Republican party lately. Americans sent the president and lawmakers to Washington to fight for the Constitution and their rights – not to make deals under duress from Democrats. Will it ever get better? Time will tell.

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