Republicans doing everything to defeat themselves

The Democrats wake up every morning wanting to beat the Republicans, but they’ll never be as good at beating the Republicans as the Republicans are at beating themselves.

Let’s just run down the last few days in Republican news.

After spending months insisting that U.S. aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan had to be tied to a border-security proposal, House Republicans declared the proposal negotiated by the Senate dead on arrival. There were good reasons to be dissatisfied with the compromise proposal, but this put everything back to square one.

The GOP House leadership’s next move was to attempt to pass a standalone bill for aid to Israel. That legislation included $800 million for ammunition, $10 million for naval supplies, $36.8 million for Air Force missile procurement, $4 billion for “the procurement of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling defense systems to counter short-range rocket threats,” a separate $1.2 billion for research and “development of the Iron Beam defense system to counter short-range rocket threats,” $200 million for diplomatic efforts, and $3.5 billion for the Foreign Military Financing Program to respond to the attacks in Israel. That vote failed; Republicans introduced the bill under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority for passage, and only 250 of the 430 members voted for it.

“The Republican effort to impeach Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed Tuesday night in a dramatic House standoff that came down to the wire thanks to three Republican defectors.”

CNN reports, “A growing number of senior House Republicans are coming to terms with a stark realization: It is unlikely that their months-long investigation into Joe Biden will actually lead to impeaching the president. . . . Serious doubts are growing inside the GOP that they will be able to convince their razor-thin majority to back the politically perilous impeachment effort in an election-year, according to interviews with over a dozen Republican lawmakers and aides, including some who are close to the probe.” CNN reports that Republicans are probably 20 votes short. If only someone had warned Republicans that an ongoing investigation of Biden, with a steady drip-drip-drip, was more useful to them and the country than an effort to impeach him.

Kentucky Republican House member Thomas Massie contends that removing Kevin McCarthy as speaker has had the opposite effect that McCarthy critics claimed it would: “Getting rid of Speaker McCarthy has officially turned into an unmitigated disaster. All work on separate spending bills has ceased. Spending reductions have been traded for spending increases. Warrantless spying has been temporarily extended. Our majority has shrunk.”

The New York Times reported that Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel plans to step down from her post after the South Carolina primary on February 24; her spokesman told our Zach Kessel that “nothing has changed. This will be decided after South Carolina.” McDaniel has been chairwoman of the RNC since January 2017, which makes her the longest-tenured chair of the organization since Mark Hanna occupied the post from 1896 to 1904.

When McDaniel took over, Trump was about to be inaugurated, there were 52 Republican senators and 246 Republican members of the House, and 4,205 of the 7,383 state legislative seats (almost 57 percent) were held by Republicans. Today, Biden is president, there are 49 Republican senators and 219 Republican members of the House, and 4,022 of the 7,383 state legislative seats (54.4 percent) are held by Republicans. Filings with the Federal Election Commission indicate that the RNC begins 2024 with just over $8 million in cash on hand, the lowest since 1993, adjusted for inflation. The Democratic National Committee begins the year with $24 million on hand.

Red State’s Jennifer Van Laar reported that the RNC spent about $297,000 on office supplies, $1 million on management consulting, $70,000 on floral arrangements, $116,000 on media-booking consultants, and $263,000 on limousines — significantly more than their counterparts in the Democratic National Committee in each category. Meanwhile, the DNC significantly outspent the RNC on voter-file maintenance, get-out-the-vote texting, and transfers to state parties — you know, the sorts of efforts that actually help candidates get elected.

Oh, and finally, Donald Trump declared on Truth Social that “Anheuser-Busch is not a Woke company” and that “Anheuser-Busch is a Great American Brand that perhaps deserves a Second Chance?” Jeff Miller, a lobbyist for Anheuser-Busch, is hosting a fundraiser for Trump on March 6.

I don’t know about you, but I find all this “winning” exhausting. Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” Lately, the Republican Party is demonstrating all the organization of Bogota rush-hour traffic.

We can’t get a bipartisan consensus to aid our allies. America’s enemies must be laughing this morning.

A major factor in all this is that House Speaker Mike Johnson is attempting to placate the erratic political desires of one guy down in Mar-a-Lago, instead of living with the reality of the extremely limited consensus among the 218 other guys in his caucus. This is what happens when the primary criterion for leadership within the Republican Party is public loyalty to Donald Trump, rather than competence, discipline, judgment, or strategic thinking.

At this moment, there are 219 House Republicans, 212 House Democrats, and four vacancies. The election to replace the expelled George Santos will be held Tuesday, February 13. (That’s a D+2 district, so a GOP replacement is far from guaranteed. Former Democratic congressman Tom Suozzi is facing off against Republican Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip.) McCarthy abruptly retired after losing the speakership; the election to fill his seat in California’s heavily Republican 20th district will be held May 21. Bill Johnson of Ohio’s heavily Republican 6th district retired to become president of Youngstown State University; the special election for his seat will be held June 11. The fourth vacancy is in New York’s heavily Democratic 26th congressional district, which includes Buffalo, where Representative Brian Higgins recently resigned to become president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center. The date for the special election in that district has not yet been set.

By mid June, Speaker Johnson might have two or three more GOP members in the chamber and a bit more breathing room on close votes. Until then, House Republicans have no wiggle room. That is an intractable, unavoidable fact of political life that no amount of optimism or thundering rage on social media can alter.

Sure, Mayorkas deserved impeachment for the spectacularly terrible job he’s done over the past three years, and rote insistence that the border was secure, a line that even President Biden abandoned. (Biden, January 24: “I haven’t believed that [the border is secure] for the last 10 years, and I’ve said it for the last 10 years.”) But removing Mayorkas wasn’t likely to do much to change the circumstances at the border; any replacement appointed by Biden and confirmed by the Democrat-controlled Senate was likely to have an identical worldview. President Biden has the immigration policies he wants in place. As noted yesterday, as of late January, Biden’s administration had taken 535 immigration-policy actions.

Biden is insisting he can loosen immigration enforcement through executive orders, but he can only tighten immigration enforcement through legislation:

For years, liberal presidents have informed a recalcitrant public that they hold unitary power to impose the latest progressive scheme — to establish equity, legalize Dreamers, reduce climate change, or any of a dozen other left-wing goals.

Yet suddenly, when the southern border is overwhelmed, when cities are filled with homeless migrants, when drugs and gangs and individuals on the terror watchlist are entering the United States, the president is helpless. A wreck. He needs Congress to bail him out.

Odd. Biden didn’t say he required congressional approval when, on his first day in office, he reversed his predecessor’s order to exclude illegal immigrants from the Census Bureau’s calculations for congressional reapportionment; insulated Dreamers from legal challenges; ended restrictions on entry into the United States for citizens of nations deemed a national-security risk; paused deportations; stopped construction of the border wall; and extended the ability of Liberian immigrants to remain in the United States.

Nor did Biden say he required congressional approval when he ended his predecessor’s Remain in Mexico policy; first tried to halt Title 42 authority to remove illegal migrants deemed a public-health risk; and expanded presidential parole to admit more than 1 million migrants to the United States.

The House counter to Biden on the border should be simple. Almost could do it in a one sentence bill. Give the president Title 42-style authority to shut the border without triggers or limits. Take it or leave it.

But if the House did that, there is a chance that Biden would actually use that authority, and then actually be able to campaign around the country, boasting that he did something to strengthen border security . . . and that might lessen the odds of Donald Trump winning the 2024 presidential election. Those of us whose priority is a more secure border would take that deal, because we see policy victories as the ultimate goal. Trump fans have election victories as their ultimate goal.

There’s a great big country out there that is exhausted with Joe Biden, has no faith in Kamala Harris, and sees the Oval Office occupied by a tired old man whose wearying boastfulness and “malarkey” grew insufferable a long time ago and who is now haplessly buffeted by menacing developments at home and abroad. Large swaths of America’s independents are begging Republicans to give them an option beyond Donald Trump. But the GOP just won’t do it.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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