House conservative quits Freedom Caucus because he's tired of futile shutdown fights that only help Democrats

This got lost in the shuffle last night amid debate fee-vah but it deserves some attention with the GOP headed for another game of “shutdown chicken” with Obama and Reid that they’ll inevitably lose. The author: California Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican with a 90 percent conservative rating on the Heritage Action scorecard (the average House Republican scores 68 percent) and a member of Jim Jordan’s Freedom Caucus of tea partiers.

The Freedom Caucus is vowing to vote no on any GOP spending bill that funds Planned Parenthood. Without them Boehner probably doesn’t have the votes to pass anything, which means he’ll need to make concessions to Pelosi in order to convince Democrats to join with GOP centrists and pass a bill. Thus does a conservative stand on principle produce Democratic gains. How many more times do we need to watch that happen before we learn our lesson, wonders McClintock?

At least once more, apparently. And so he’s done with the caucus.

On February 27th, we faced the imminent shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security over the funding of Obama’s unlawful amnesty orders for illegal immigrants.  Although the American people overwhelmingly opposed these orders, they also overwhelmingly opposed shutting down DHS.  House Republicans attempted to pass a three-week stop gap bill so we could avoid a catastrophic shutdown of our security agencies while continuing to bring public opinion to bear to de-fund the orders.  At the behest of its board, most HFC members combined with House Democrats to defeat this effort, resulting in the full funding of these illegal orders for the fiscal year. 

In May, the House had the opportunity to adopt the most important free trade bill in nearly two decades, restoring the long-standing and essential process that has made it possible for our nation to negotiate free trade agreements with other nations.  At the behest of its board, most HFC members combined with the vast majority of House Democrats in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat this legislation.  

Last week, the House was scheduled to adopt the Resolution of Disapproval of the disastrous Iran nuclear agreement – the only legally binding action available to Congress under the Corker Act.  Once again, the House Freedom Caucus leadership threatened to combine with House Democrats to defeat the Resolution, forcing the House leadership to abandon it in favor of a symbolic and legally meaningless vote.  Ironically, while Harry Reid and Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the Resolution of Disapproval in the Senate, the House Freedom Caucus leadership was instrumental in blocking its consideration in the House…

A common theme through each of these incidents is a willingness – indeed, an eagerness – to strip the House Republican majority of its ability to set the House agenda by combining with House Democrats on procedural motions.  As a result, it has thwarted vital conservative policy objectives and unwittingly become Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally.  

Why not present a united Republican front on lower spending even at the price of funding Planned Parenthood, asks McClintock, so that when Reid inevitably filibusters the bill in the Senate the GOP will have a clean party-line argument that he’s the one who’s shutting down the government? As it is, Reid and Pelosi will be able to boast that some House Republicans, namely the Freedom Caucus, are with them in opposing Boehner’s spending bill. Then again, if you’re worried about the PR battle during a shutdown, what does it really matter whether the divisions are straight party-line or more heterogeneous? The GOP always loses in the polls on who’s to blame for a shutdown because they’re the party known for being anti-government. And Boehner and his deputies know that, which is why they’re reportedly circulating some of those polls right now to wavering House Republicans.

On the other hand, it’s not exactly true that these shutdown efforts are always futile, as McClintock claims. They may not achieve anything policy-wise for conservatives — on the contrary, they’re likely to force Boehner to meet some of Pelosi’s demands — but they do accomplish one important conservative goal. They grow the perception that Boehner’s a weak Speaker who won’t fight, who’s lost control of his caucus, and who somehow can’t avoid situations in which a huge Republican majority in the House fractures and leaves Democrats to profit by it. If the goal of all this is a palace coup this fall, then undermining Boehner yet again by standing firm against Planned Parenthood probably advances the ball. The base will be angrier than ever, Trump will pound the table about being led by dummies, and Mark Meadows et al. will have even more juice to float a resolution that would topple Boehner. Is that worth making new spending concessions to Pelosi and Reid? We could be one more crushing defeat away from total victory.

The latest idea in the Senate, by the way, is to beat Reid’s filibuster by using reconciliation to pass a spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood (assuming that Boehner’s willing to pass it in the House). Maybe that’s the key to making this defeat more palatable for conservatives — as they failed to do with the resolution disapproving of the Iran deal, if they can at least get a bill out of Congress and onto Obama’s desk for a veto, that’ll make O the lightning rod for right-wing anger instead of Boehner and McConnell. Would that be good enough? If not, sketch me a path by which Planned Parenthood actually gets defunded. A long shutdown in which the GOP gets lots of media support in publicizing the PP sting videos might theoretically force Obama to cave, I guess, even though he’s the most pro-abortion president in American history and has nothing at all to lose as a lame-duck by standing firm on this. You trust the media to lend the GOP a hand against him, no?

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