By Printus LeBlanc
The White House needs to accept the political reality of the Senate. Despite having 51 Republicans in the Senate, they do not have a majority and are facing a hostile Senate. All the evidence is in the numbers, and President Donald Trump must act accordingly.
The first test for the “Republican” controlled Senate came after six years of campaign promises. The GOP controlled the House, Senate, and White House, and it was finally going to get rid of Obamacare. And then the Senate had to vote when it had a President that would sign the bill. Long story short, Obamacare is still the law of the land.
Another test will come later this week. In early June, the House passed a $14.7 billion rescission package. The package was nothing more than programs that did not exist, or there is no authorization, but Congress keeps funding anyways. The package now sits in the Senate and must be acted upon by Friday.
It seems like an easy lift. Defunct government programs should not get funded. However, it is not looking good. Many moderate Senators, including appropriators, do not want to rock the boat on the previously agreed to spending levels, even if said spending levels include phantom funding.
Nominations are another key indicator the Republicans do not control the Senate. There has been a staggering level of obstruction with President Trump’s nominees. There have been over 100 cloture votes, including half a dozen cloture votes on nominees that passed without a vote against. The obstruction has gotten so bad; there are 100 fewer confirmations than the next closest administration.
Knowing the Senate landscape, the President must now consider the Senate a hostile body. President Trump must play hardball with the Senate.
President Trump must assert his veto authority. Trump must let the Senate know he will veto any spending bill that does not prioritize his policies, the policies that won the election. The border wall must be funded, and the President must have the ability to drain the swamp, by getting the authority to fire the swamp through enacting the MERIT Act by U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk.
President Trump won the presidency because of his stance against illegal immigration. All the polls show a majority of Americans do not like illegal immigration, despite what the media spouts. The results were validated in the election because the Democrat Party and the Republican establishment were all running from the same open borders and amnesty playbook. They lost, and Donald Trump won, and he won on the promise of building a wall.
The swamp got the better of the President in the previous budget by hiding behind the Trump’s love for the military, but now the President must fight back. A veto threat for a budget that does not fund the border wall will force funding for the wall. The ten Democrats up for reelection in states Trump won cannot afford to be seen as shutting the government down because they don’t want to protect American citizens. Illegal immigration cost the U.S. taxpayers $116 billion per year; the wall will cost $25 billion to build plus maintenance. If the wall reduces illegal immigration by only 10 percent, the wall pays for itself in 2 ½ years.
The President also promised to drain the swamp, but that can be difficult when it is impossible to fire a government employee. A small step was taken when President Trump signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act last summer. The legislation streamlined the process to fire, suspend, or demote VA employees for substandard performance or misconduct. Secondarily, the bill authorized the VA secretary to recover bonuses awarded to employees that acted improperly. The VA scandal began when employees lied about appointments to get bonuses.
The legislation is effective, as it enabled the VA to fire more than 1,500 poor performing employees within six months after the legislation was signed. While it may be easier to fire poor performing employees in the VA, that is not the case for the rest of the federal government. This power must be given to the rest of the federal agencies by passing the MERIT Act.
President Trump must demand all cabinet secretaries have the same power the VA secretary has to fire poorly performing employees, and this can be done by turning the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into a federal government-wide act. Who would be against firing poor performing employees?
Since his election, the President has been trying to play nice with the Senate. The time for fun and games has passed. The President must take the fight to the Senate and force tough votes. They are the opposition. Dare the Senate to shut down the federal government before an election because it doesn’t want to protect Americans or fire poor performing employees. This is a winning formula for November. After all, it worked once already.
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Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.