Is Obamacare repeal bringing Cruz and McConnell together?

Someone should call John Boehner and ask him if Lucifer has converted.

A Politico story out this week points to Texas Senator Ted Cruz as Mitch McConnell’s chosen point man on the Senate’s Obamacare repeal efforts:

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a man Cruz once derided as a liar and an ally of Democrats — is counting on the Texan to help navigate an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate with virtually no margin for error. As a trusted voice of the conservative wing of the GOP and conduit to the House Freedom Caucus, Cruz is fast emerging as a pivotal player in the Republican bid to do away with the landmark Democratic health care law.

If true – and it may well be, given McConnell’s inclusion of Cruz and a number of other conservatives on the repeal development team and exclusion of several moderate Senators – it marks a huge shift for either Cruz, McConnell, or more likely – both.

As told by Politico, the story of Cruz’ rise is due to his transformation from bomb-throwing political hellion to savvy political negotiator. Though it’s true that Cruz seems to have embraced tactics that his colleagues find more palatable, the true story is likely more one of practicality than transformation.

That Cruz would find more acceptance in the Senate post-election should come as no surprise. First-term Senator or not, anyone who can gin up the level of primary support Cruz did and develop the best ground game in modern political history is sure to gain some attention, if not respect. After all, moderates tend to be moderate because they’re more interested in votes than in principle – and Cruz proved that he knows how to generate votes.

It is also likely that McConnell saw the writing on the wall in the House repeal efforts. The fact that House Plan A fell apart due largely to a lack of conservative support signaled that the path forward lay in conservative territory. That Plan B passed after gaining early conservative support only confirmed it.

For his part, Cruz’ comments on his newfound role do sound more inclusive than those from the pre-election disputes with his own party – a change Cruz attributes to the party’s move from the defensive to the offensive side of the game.

“One of the challenges when the Obamacare bill was in the House, was that early on was that the different parts of the party were not talking to each other,” Cruz said in an interview in his office. “We wanted to ensure that the process from the outset was collaborative and inclusive … Different circumstances call for different approaches … Now our job is to deliver on the promises. And that’s a markedly different role than trying to prevent harmful policies from an imperial president.”

While the result of the Senate effort remains to be seen, one thing is for certain:  With people like Cruz, Tom Coburn, and Mike Lee involved in the process, the interests of conservatives will be given due consideration.

 

Against Earmarks

Former Senator Tom Coburn once called earmarks a “gateway drug” to big government spending. He was right. Earmarks, once a small fraction of federal spending, ballooned into corrupt schemes by members of congress for often nonsensical or vanity projects. From bridges to nowhere to buildings named after spouses, your tax dollars were sought after by congressmen and their friends for personal projects.

Earmarks became so outlandish over time that a conservative revolt led to them being banned. Now some Republicans want to bring them back and are up to the typical games the left plays — re-defining and renaming. They’d have you believe, like those who claim to reject Common Core by keeping it but changing its name, that they are opposed to earmarks, but want to create congressionally controlled spending restraint on bureaucracies.

Congress already has that power.

The chief argument used by those who support the return of earmarks is that it keeps low level bureaucrats from spending your tax dollars as they wish. Superficially the argument sounds credible, but deep down there are serious problems with it. Congress has existing power to keep bureaucrats from spending your tax dollars as they wish. But congress frequently abdicates its responsibility. Congress is okay with the bureaucrats spending earmark dollars. In fact, bureaucrats were engaged in the practice during the time congressmen were also doling out earmarks. Congress could rein the practice in with Article I spending legislation and revisiting the Chevron test used by courts. Congress, however, has chosen not to. Don’t blame the bureaucrats for doing what Congress has not only let them do, but in many cases encouraged them to do so congressmen cannot be blamed.

Then there is the fact that at least for the next four years we should not have a problem with low level bureaucrats spending tax payer dollars on earmarked projects. These bureaucrats will be presided over by a Republican Chief Executive Officer. Even if they did get out of place, it is far easier to correct or replace a wayward bureaucrat than a member of Congress. The re-election rate for the latter exceeds 98%. A bureaucratic earmark, unlike a congressional earmark, can be stopped by management.

As people flirt with bringing back earmarks, we should remember our history. Earmarks were used to cajole Republicans into ever more expansive government programs. Earmarks are how George W. Bush got the prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind passed through congress. Earmarks are how all big government expansions get passed. Earmarks are often nothing more than legal bribery within Congress.

Even if you are concerned about bureaucrats spending money because congress has abdicated its responsibility to them, the problem still lies with Congress and the reality is that any bureaucratic spending pales in comparison to the congressional oligarchs’ earmarks of yester-years and, more importantly, the bureaucratic spending amounts to a single molecule of water in the bucket of massive federal programs that would never have been created without the congressional bribery through earmarks.

The addicts are restless and hoping to get out of rehab and back on the drug. Republicans just won an election to drain Washington’s swamp. They do not now need to direct the sewer into the swamp by re-establishing earmarks. It is not a coincidence that the chief advocates of earmarks are also the most liberal Republicans in the Congress. They know their and the left’s expansionist tendencies are dampened without earmarks. We should not give in.

Flushing Your Tax Dollars Down The Drain

Yesterday, two Republican Senators released a report showing that $87 billion could be cut from the federal budget if Inspector General reports were taken more seriously by federal agencies.

Via McClatchy, some highlights from Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin:

Among the ignored recommendations are 2,000 for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to its inspector general – including some that had not been implemented for up to 15 years.

The Pentagon inspector general reported that the Department of Defense could save $33 billion if it heeded all recommendations, the report said.

“The numbers show that the Executive Branch would likely improve the effectiveness of its operations – and save taxpayer money – by implementing recommendations made by the IG community,” the report said.

The report, which was based on the responses of 72 inspectors general, said eight inspectors general are stymied by their agencies who refuse to give them the documents they request for audits or investigations.

This should surprise nobody. In 2012, then-Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report examining $70 billion out of about $700 billion in federal grants and other spending he said was appropriated but left unspent. From my interview with Coburn at the time:

Senator Coburn: I can’t tell you the full amount, but I can tell you that money from the 1996 Olympics is still locked in, for example. And that was 16 years ago.

The importance of this report is that it highlights just how bad oversight and accountability are in Washington. For example, $7.5 billion in earmark transportation funding that is never going to be spent has been appropriated. It shows the incompetence of Congress, the incompetence of the process, and the incompetence of the bureaucracy. The federal government is so big it doesn’t know what it’s doing. People may have right intentions, but we’re incompetent because it’s so big.

Coburn also brought duplication in the budget, which he said could save at least $200 billion annually if eliminated, into the limelight during his time as Senator.

Earlier this year, I examined how the federal government’s official estimate of $136 billion lost to “improper payments” almost certainly undercounts the total. And the federal government’s health care and Pentagon spending is vastly oversized, thanks to incompetence and a blind eye to reforms.

Clearly, the federal government needs to keep a better eye on taxpayer resources. This level of incompetence ought to be criminal.

This leads to an important question, however: Is it even possible to properly oversee trillions of dollars in scores of separate programs, many of which have sub-programs? I agree with Coburn; the answer is no.

It’s long past time for Democrats and Republicans to stand up for taxpayers by slashing the federal budget itself — by reforming health care spending, eliminating corporate welfare, reforming food stamps and other programs for the poor, and making sure the Department of Defense’s budget serves the public instead of contractors.

Only a smaller government can be truly transparent, and effectively held accountable. Until then, reports like Johnson’s and Grassley’s, and the “Federal Fumbles” report by Senator James Lankford (R-OK), will gain headlines…but do little else.

Barack Obama’s Border Funding Plan is a Bad Idea

Barack Obama has flown to Texas to fundraise. He won’t actually go visit the border. But he did come up with a $3.7 billion plan to deal with what’s happening. Senator Tom Coburn is voicing his opposition. The GOP would be wise to listen to Senator Coburn. As he noted last night on Crossfire, “That’s $60,000 per child we will spend, in emergency money.” He also noted that if we bought all the kids first class tickets back home it’d only be $8 million.

Instead, Coburn said Congress could in two weeks repeal the law that allows juveniles from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to stay and apply for asylum instead of facing immediate deportation like Mexican citizens do.

To stem the tide of minors crossing the border, Coburn suggested, “the best signal to slow this down is send them home.”

Coburn blamed the whole situation on a laxity of immigration enforcement by the Obama administration.

Yes. Also, while the left is desperate to spin just how much of a deporter President Obama is, it is simply not true. The President is, as Senator Coburn says, lax on immigration enforcement.

The post Barack Obama’s Border Funding Plan is a Bad Idea appeared first on RedState.

Tom Coburn, Ron Johnson, and Pat Toomey Should be Ashamed

Tom Coburn cares about the size and scope of the federal government. So do Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey. But they just voted for a tax increase with legislation that was not even publicly available. In other words, they voted for a law that was not even written for them to review. And what was in the law? Nothing to rein in the size of | Read More »