Two successive national-election losses still hasn’t clued Republicans into the need for dramatic change in their direction. The House GOP caucus rejected a plan by John Boehner and Eric Cantor to impose a unilateral moratorium on pork-barrel spending, even a short term freeze:
Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia had unveiled late Wednesday a moratorium on GOP earmark requests through Feb. 16 while a new panel of Republicans comes up with proposals for permanent restrictions and disclosure requirements for earmarks
But Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, an appropriator, offered an amendment to strip the requirement for an earmark moratorium. And Tiahrt’s moratorium-killing proposal was approved by the full caucus, said several GOP aides. The amended rules package was then adopted.
Tiahrt has been a staunch defender of earmarks, and has been a rival of outgoing Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, one of the strongest proponents of a permanent earmark moratorium for all Republicans. Tiahrt lost a bitter head-to-head race against Hensarling for the chairmanship of the RSC at the start of the 110th Congress, and later opted to leave the conservative faction.
Boehner and Cantor just won election to leadership posts (re-elected, in Boehner’s case) in what was supposed to show a decision by House Republicans to firm up their message. This shows that flabbiness remains in style among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Last year, conservative activists tried to get the caucus to adopt a year-long unilateral moratorium in order to regain the mantle of fiscal responsibility. This time, they just wanted a commitment that would last three months, and still didn’t get it.
What does this say about the newly-elected leadership? Cantor was a particularly popular choice among conservatives as someone who could get the GOP back to its limited-government roots. It appears as though the House GOP elected Cantor as a figurehead, having no intention on following through on the promise for reform and focus on providing a rational difference for voters.
So what’s the strategy now? Pray that Democrats overreach so badly that people will vote Republican in 2010 out of spite? That’s not a strategy, that’s a hubris all on its own.