Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – guest host Ben Cunningham welcomed The Tennessee Star National Correspondent Neil McCabe to the newsmaker line to outline the $5 trillion dollar infrastructure spending and the anti-Trump senators who continue their hostility toward Donald Trump.
Cunningham: Gosh, things are going on so quickly in Washington this week, and it’s just depressing if you care about any kind of fiscal responsibility.
Neil McCabe is on the line with us. Neil is the national political correspondent for The Tennessee Star and is the most connected man in Washington, D.C. Neil, tell us, is there any way that this big snowball can be stopped? This $5 trillion spending snowball, or are we doomed to just watch it roll through?
McCabe: First of all, yes, we are doomed to just watch it roll through. But it’s the confluence of a number of events. And I think the critical one for people of our ilk, Ben, is that Mitch McConnell has made the decision that he’s going to stick it to Donald Trump.
And sort of this cattery of anti-Trump Republican senators is going to get together and give Joe Biden a bipartisan win. And it’s just because of the different cultures of the House and the Senate. The Senate has always been culturally hostile to President Trump.
And I’m talking about Senate Republicans, whereas House Republican congressmen are overwhelming, not only do they like Trump, they support Trump, and they feel a kinship with Trump. Whereas Republican senators see him as an interloper, as this stranger from another planet who has just basically messed up all of their plans.
Mike Lee had this great line where he says everybody talks about wouldn’t it be great if Republicans and Democrats could learn to work together again? And Lee always says the problem in Washington is, when Republicans and Democrats work together, it’s to raise spending and to raise taxes.
And that’s exactly what this bill is going to do. And McConnell has now decided that this thing was dead and he’s brought it back and he’s going to do it to stick it to Trump.
Cunningham: They do. They treat Trump and the supporters of Trump like an embarrassment basically. They are just embarrassed, but they will go the distance. And the House Republican leadership is not doing much at this point, are they?
McCabe: What you’re seeing, thanks to the leadership of Jim Banks, who I have (Inaudible talk) Granted it’s in baby steps. But he is returning the Republican Study Committee to its roots. The Republican Study Committee was founded in 1973 as part of that effort to bring some services and back into the Republican Party.
It was that same movement, that same period of time, that created the Heritage Foundation and the Committee for a Free Congress. And the American Conservative Union was all part of that movement. And so the Republican Study Committee has been integrated under Boehner and then under Paul Ryan. And then McCarthy is part of leadership because instead of being the rebels, they became part of the empire structure.
Banks is waging a war against this infrastructure bill. And he’s doing it by actually reading the bill. And he and his people are reading the bill and they’re pulling stuff out of it. And guys in the Senate and conservatives are trying to delay it.
And that just gives people more time to read it. But really, it doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. McConnell wants to stick it to Trump and so do a lot of Republican senators.
Cunningham: That’s pretty depressing that that is the dynamic. How much can they delay it? There are two bills. And I certainly don’t understand it as well as I should because things move so quickly. There’s a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
And then there’s the $3.5 trillion, which supposedly will pass with reconciliation. There’s so much stuff in that $3.5 trillion. Is the parliamentarian actually going to say yes, all of this stuff is qualified as budget, and we’re going to pass it with reconciliation. Is that going to happen?
McCabe: They’re going to work over the parliamentarian. Basically, that $3.5 trillion bill has been written almost in coordination with the parliamentarian, basically working as the referee. And so everything that Democrats can’t pass on their own is going in the $1.5 billion. So you now have the factor of 10, 15, maybe 20 Republican senators who are moving heaven and earth to give the Democrats everything they can’t get in the reconciliation bill.
And the test vote of that was the filibuster. And the Republicans joined the Democrats to break the filibuster. And so now when that comes to the floor, it’s just a simple majority vote.
Cunningham: That is so depressing. And obviously, Lindsey and Mitch McConnell obviously believe they can do this without incurring any penalty back home.
McCabe: Well, you know, McConnell and Lindsey Graham, they just won reelection. Portman, who’s one of the guys leading the effort, was the budget director under George W. Bush. He loathes Trump and loathes conservatives. He’s retiring.
That’s why J.D. Vance is in that race. And you have Pat Toomey, who was once the darling of the conservative movement. He was president of the Club for Growth, and he’s retiring. So he’s part of it. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, she’s got a tough primary fight.
She’s underwater in some polls that I’ve seen. And so the senators who are on their way out are walking around like zombie senators. And their only goal right now is to set themselves up for their retirement and private life and also set up 20 or 30 of their aides with lobbying jobs as beltway bandits.
And all of those sorts of cookies, treats, donuts, and ornaments are going to be stuck into that bill to help out these senators and their staffers when they return to private life.
Henry: Neil, Grant Henry here with Americans for Prosperity.
McCabe: Hi Grant.
Henry: Pertaining specifically to this $3.5 trillion plan, one would hope that through that bird rule amendment process you could theoretically cut out some of this nonsensical trash. The Pro Act stuff, the Green New Deal stuff, and increased healthcare spending.
But if that doesn’t happen, it will come across as a fairly transparent con in my mind against the American people. It’s exactly what you just said a second ago, Neil. This is just a grab bag, a kitchen sink way to pass all the legislation.
In the last minute we have here, let me ask: if that happens what are the ramifications for the midterm elections? Does it do anything towards that at the last minute here?
McCabe: I think, Grant, you know more than anybody else that this is going to dull the knife of Senate Republicans as they try to retake the chamber. What you’re seeing in House conservatives, they are mounting a serious campaign against this bill, and that’s going to drive up their chances of retaking the lower chamber. Of course, Kevin McCarthy is nowhere to be seen.
Cunningham: Neil, we are coming up on a break. Can you stay over with us?
Listen to the full third hour here:
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