“In the House and the Senate, we own the budget.” It was August 2014, the stretch run before the midterm elections, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was making promises to voters about how he and his party would face down Barack Obama’s lawless presidency. Put us in charge, he explained, and a Republican Congress would defend Americans by using the main tool the Framers gave them, the power of the purse:
McConnell had earlier explained what he meant to a secret meeting of billionaire Republican donors, the audio tape of which was apparently leaked to Politico:
“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”
McConnell clearly understands that while Congress may need a presidential signature to pass laws or repeal existing laws, through the power of the purse Congress can refuse to fund anything it wants to. This goes to the heart of government founded on the principle of separation of powers and check and balances. McConnell was promising fat cat donors and voters that he would lead the charge in trying to stop Obama’s radical leftist schemes.
“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”
Did you get that? McConnell: I guarantee it.
We all now know what came out of McConnell’s “guarantee.”
In other words, McConnell and his fellow Republican leaders talked the brave talk when courting voters who wanted the financing plug pulled on Obama policies that are crushing ordinary Americans — the impeachable non-enforcement of our immigration laws that costs Americans jobs, depresses American wages, and stresses American communities; the unfolding Obamacare debacle that deprives ordinary Americans of the doctors and insurance they had, corralling them into plans with premiums and deductibles so high that the “coverage” is illusory.
Alas, when voters trusted them to follow through, when it came time to walk the walk . . . the GOP went AWOL.
It was not just McConnell saying these things, making promises with personal guarantees. As Professor Paul Rahe of Hillsdale College has pointed out:
…something of the sort was uttered by virtually every Republican candidate running for the House or the Senate that year. They recognized the wave of resentment in the general public directed at Barack Obama and the Democrats, and they rode that wave with considerable bravado (as they had in 2010). Put bluntly, they promised to make use of the power of the purse, and they did nothing of the sort – not, at least, with regard to the issues about which the voters were worked up.
Professor Paul Rahe then uncovers a new wrinkle to this. It isn’t just that Republicans made promises to get votes, it isn’t just that they may have never intended to keep those promises, something that transforms mere bluster into deadpan deliberate lying. No, it’s much more. They created hopeful expectations that finally there would be an effective response to Obama’s relentless forcing of more and more radical leftist diatribes and follies to transform America into something patriotic citizens can’t recognize anymore.
In the most striking paragraph you’ll likely find anywhere, Professor Rahe brings his vast knowledge and understanding of history to light:
This matter is more important than it might seem. The truth is that modern liberty depends on the power of the purse. All of the great battles in England in the 17th century between the Crown and Parliament turned ultimately on the power of the purse. The members of Parliament were elected at least in part with an eye to achieving a redress of grievances, and that redress was the price they exacted for funding the Crown. Our legislature has given up that power. Our congressional leaders claim – once the election is over – that they have no leverage. If that is really true, then elections do not matter, and a redress of grievances is now beyond the legislature’s power. Absent that capacity, however, the legislature is virtually useless. Absent that capacity, it is contemptible — and let’s face it: the President and those who work under him have showered it with contempt.
McConnell and his co-horts didn’t just fail to keep promises they made to voters. They brought shame and contempt upon themselves and made their voters feel like suckers. Now they are panicked over how to stop Trump, but they can’t stop Donald Trump.
With no promise left unbroken, they are the architects of the Trump phenomenon.