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October 2, 2023

Conservatives, Hold Your Fire

McCarthy had the no-win option of presiding over a so-called government “shutdown” or extending the bloated Biden-Pelosi budget Republicans inherited.

A conservative-led stop-gap spending measure, which would have reduced discretionary government spending by 8% and partially addressed the crisis on our southern border, failed by a vote of 198-232 on Friday, with 21 Republicans voting against it. Faced with an unpopular government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) fell back to a longer, 45-day status quo funding measure.

Here is my advice to those tempted to blame the speaker: Hold your fire! Those infamous circular firing squads are not the solution.

First, I applaud conservatives who have and are fighting to return fiscal reality to Washington, D.C., or at a minimum, move us out of the fiscal twilight zone that we have entered with $33 trillion in debt and $2 trillion in deficit spending in the current Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer budget.

Also, don’t dismiss the legislative drama that unfolded before the American public over the last week as dysfunction. This is how an open legislative process works. Had members of the House Freedom Caucus not held firm in January over the speaker negotiations at the start of the 118th Congress, we would not be witnessing a transparent and dynamic legislative process no longer scripted in advance by a handful in a back room.

In short, this often-turbulent, unpredictable process has been instrumental in returning Congress to operating as it once did and should — with individual members representing their constituents and having a voice in the process.

That said, if you’re 4th and 15 on the 20-yard line, the clock is about to run out, and the score is tied, you want to put points on the board. A touchdown would be incredible, but you’ve gotten as close as possible. A field goal would be a good option, since three points are better than none. House Republicans missed an opportunity to put points on the board by failing to approve the conservatively negotiated spending measure. The result wasn’t perfect; it continued Biden’s budget, but it cut it, addressed a critical need, and exposed a political liability of President Biden.

I learned this both inside and outside the legislative process: you fight with all your might for what is right. You never compromise principle, but you will settle for today what you can’t get until tomorrow.

As a result, Speaker McCarthy had the no-win option of presiding over a so-called government “shutdown” or extending the bloated Biden-Pelosi budget Republicans inherited.

The option of allowing the government to “shut down” would have been pinned on Republicans. While not true, it would have been a sticky claim since Republicans couldn’t even reach an agreement with themselves, let alone President Biden and the Democrats.

Speaker McCarthy made the right decision. The calls to replace him are nonsensical and counterproductive. I’ve spoken to a handful of those who might be potential replacements. No one wants the position. Why? Because they know they would have the same challenge of leading a very, very narrow majority.

This is why I said Republicans should hold their fire over this unpleasant, albeit avoidable, outcome. The speaker wisely canceled the scheduled recess this week and is keeping members in D.C. to work on the remaining appropriations bills. That means there is still an opportunity to bring some fiscal and policy sanity back to the federal government, even though Joe Biden is still in the White House and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is still the Scare Leader in the Senate.

The appropriations bills that have been inexplicably slow in making their way through the legislative process in the House are, considering the present political environment, good bills. The Republican-drafted funding measures rein in spending and eliminate a good bit of the leftist ideology that has saturated the federal government under the Biden presidency.

The Democrats’ push for a 45-day funding measure is by design. This play has been run so often that even the fake news media should see it. Here’s how it works. Go back to business as usual: the House can name a few post offices, and the Senate can approve more of President Biden’s leftist nominees until a week before the next deadline, which just so happens to fall before the Thanksgiving break.

At that point, we have another funding crisis. History tells us one of two things will happen: a handful of appropriators will cobble together a massive omnibus spending bill in a backroom and then unveil it right before Thanksgiving to their colleagues, giving them just hours to vote on a bill stuffed leftist priorities — or, if there are holdouts, another 30-day funding bill will be adopted, setting up the same scenario right before Christmas.

The House should stay in D.C. until all of the appropriations bills are done and send them to the Senate with an emphatic message that there will be no irresponsible omnibus spending package this time. Congress must do what it has not done since the 1990s: approve each of the 12 funding bills.

It will then be up to Chuck Schumer and the Senate, which has yet to approve any of its dozen appropriations bills, what happens next.

Now is not the time for conservatives to pound their chests or point fingers. It’s time to take the gains and the losses and move the nation toward the goal of greater fiscal and moral responsibility.

Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council and executive editor of The Washington Stand.

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