So Republican lawmakers do have spines after all. Who knew? Last weekend’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, notwithstanding the controversies surrounding his nomination, stemmed primarily from two sources.
First, many Republican lawmakers objected to how Democrats politicized the nomination—holding allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh for more than a month, then leaking them days before his confirmation.
Republicans also thought confirming Kavanaugh would galvanize the party and unify their voters. Many conservatives voted for Donald Trump in 2016 with no small amount of trepidation regarding his temperament and character, but overcame their misgivings because they understood the value of having a Republican pick conservative jurists for the federal judiciary rather than the same power bestowed upon a liberal like Hillary Clinton.
Lawmakers defied the political controversies, protests, and Kavanaugh’s middling poll numbers, because they felt the need to deliver on a promise they made to voters. Well, if Republicans are going to go all crazy by starting to deliver on their promises, why don’t they deliver on the promise they made for the last four election cycles, by eliminating the health care law that has raised premiums for millions?
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Senate Republicans’ bout of political courage in confirming Kavanaugh belies their other actions in the past several weeks. Even as most of the media generated ridiculous amounts of coverage on the Supreme Court nomination, the noise surrounding such topics as “boofing” allowed Republican lawmakers to renege on other political promises under the radar.
Case in point: The massive spending bill that Congress approved, and President Trump signed, last month. Despite funding most of the federal government, it does not include funding for a border wall. Republicans punted on that fight until after the election—ensuring they’ll never have it.
The spending bill also perpetuates the agreement struck in Congress earlier this year, one that busted prior spending caps by hundreds of billions of dollars. Oh, and did I mention the bill funds Planned Parenthood as well?
Mr. ‘Don’t Blink’ Blinked
But the piece de resistance of the spending bill had to come from the way that it fully funded all of Obamacare. Despite funding Obamacare—and breaking so many other promises to voters—only 56 Republicans in the House, and seven in the Senate, voted against the measure.
One Republican who supported rather than opposed the spending bill that broke so many Republican promises? None other than Sen. Ted Cruz. You may recall that in 2013, Cruz mounted a 21-hour speech prodding the Senate to defund Obamacare:
He pleaded with Republican lawmakers to deliver on their promise to voters, exhorting them, “Don’t blink!”
Last month, by voting for legislation that funded Obamacare, Cruz blinked. With “courage” like this, is it any wonder that Cruz faces the fight of his political life in his re-election campaign against Rep. Robert O’Rourke?
It’s no secret why Cruz faces problems, even in a ruby red state like Texas: Conservatives don’t feel particularly motivated to support his re-election. Given that Cruz said one thing about Obamacare five years ago, and acted in a completely contrary manner just before his election, their apathy is not without reason.
Do Your Job, And Keep Your Promises
Of course Cruz, and Senate Republicans, have an easy way to win back apathetic conservatives prior to November, a strategy they actually followed in the past week: Keep your promises to voters.
For the past eight years, Republicans have promised to repeal Obamacare. They have control of Congress for at least the next three months. They could easily pass legislation undoing the measure in that time—provided they have the kind of backbone seen on display during the Kavanaugh nomination.
Some Senate Republicans may have voted for Kavanaugh not just because they support the nominee on his merits, but because they feared what voters would do to them if they did not support him. They should ponder that same dynamic when considering the fate of the health care law. And then they should get back to work, deliver on another promise to voters, and repeal Obamacare.