Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America relish watching Beto O’Rourke get exposed yet again as an empty suit who only knows platitudes and pandering. They also cover the Supreme Court’s decision that will likely keep the citizenship question off the 2020 census. And they discuss Tim Ryan and Tulsi Gabbard clashing on the Afghan War while summing up the rest of the candidates in the first Democratic debate.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America offer the second installment of their prestigious year-end awards. Today they remark on someone they’re sorry to see go, with Jim focusing on an important conservative leaving office and Greg honoring a key figure who left us in 2018. They also share their choices for rising political stars and the political figures who appear to be fading into oblivion – rarely to be heard from again.
A strong America means secure borders, free trade, and putting American citizens first when focusing on national security and job creation, according to businessman turned congressional candidate Paul Nehlen.
Best known for his high-profile but unsuccessful primary challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2016, Nehlen is already running against Ryan in 2018 and is author of the brand new book “Wage the Battle: Putting America First in the Fight to Stop Globalist Politicians and Secure the Borders.”
The book focuses on several major goals, including restoring American sovereignty and reinvigorating American economic nationalism and an America-first foreign policy.
Nehlen has Fortune 500 business experience and points to success in bringing companies to the U.S. from all over the world. He says America need policies that allow our workers to thrive because he knows they are second to none.
“Hands down, America is number one. We have got just a fabulous workforce,” said Nehlen. “There are pockets of great work forces out there. I worked in Poland a lot. They’re great. But there’s nothing the American work forces can’t do, unless they are hamstrung by our government.”
He says convoluted government policies that play favorites in the economy is hurting our competitiveness.
“If, like Speaker Ryan, you try to give certain corporations a leg up on other small and mid-size businesses, you’re really undermining America. We can’t have a strong military, we can’t have a strong nation unless we have strong trade,” said Nehlen.
Nehlen contends the current structure of our economy is a far cry from what it was intended to be.
“This country wasn’t founded on free trade deals. This country was founded on protecting our manufacturing base, protecting our natural resources, and tilting the playing field in the favor of our manufacturers. That’s not what’s happening now,” he said.
Instead, Nehlen says our current course has actually landed us in the midst of economic hostilities with multiple nations.
“We are literally at economic war with countries like China and South Korea and Taiwan, many of whom are manipulating their currency to undermine our ability to do business in the global marketplace. That has to stop,” said Nehlen.
According to Nehlen, even the recent history of American trade agreements shows the government is choking the freedom out of our trade relationships.
“Back in 1985, we negotiated a free trade agreement with Israel and it was 13 pages long,” said Nehlen. “Fast forward about 10 years, they passed NAFTA. It’s 1,700 pages long. Fast forward another couple decades, the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes along, 5,500 pages. There is nothing free about trade that is described in 5,500 pages. It just doesn’t happen.”
Nehlen is thrilled that Trump is more than making good on his pledge to eliminate two regulations for new one placed on the books, operating at a clip of scrapping approximately 16 regulations for every new one. But he says that success has a lot of people wanting to share the credit, including the Speaker of the House.
“We see Speaker Ryan trying to take credit for that now. He’s had 18 years in Congress and he’s abdicated his role to the executive branch. Now he’s trying to take credit for what the executive branch is doing,” said Nehlen.
Congress has yet to approve funds for the construction of a border wall, which was one of President Trump’s most common promises on the campaign trail. Democrats threatened to shut down the government when a spending bill was approved in April. Now, reports suggest Republicans are still reluctant to approve the funds.
Nehlen is appalled.
“I’m disgusted with this Congress not voting on the wall and essentially just attaching some spending which will get us about 60 miles of new border fence,” said Nehlen.
“It’s ridiculous. I’ve been to the border and there are areas of the border where there is – they call it Jurassic Park – the fencing looks like enormous spikes coming up out of concrete. Adjacent to it is your normal, run of the mill barbed wire, put up by ranchers to keep their steer from going into Mexico because the water is inches deep. To suggest we’ve got the border secured is absurd,” he said.
Getting the wall done is right at the top of an ambitious laundry list that Nehlen hopes to accomplish if elected to Congress.
“One would be to advocate for this wall. Another would be to advocate for national reciprocity for anybody who has concealed carry. If you leave your state and go to another state, you shouldn’t have to relinquish the ability to protect yourself,” said Nehlen.
He would also slam on the brakes when it comes to refugee resettlement.
“Nine voluntary organizations – they’re not really voluntary – are getting paid by U.S. taxpayers to move people, predominantly Muslim – 99-plus percent I might add – to the United States. We are funding our own demise right now. It has got to stop,” said Nehlen, who also wants Congress to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
“We have got to get the Muslim Brotherhood out of the United States. We have got to root them out. That will roll back 60 years of their efforts to undermine the United States from within,” said Nehlen.
One reviewer declared Nehlen’s book a plan of action for Trump-like candidates. It’s a label Nehlen welcomes.
“I am very flattered by that. That is exactly why I wrote the book, because we need hundreds of good, righteous candidates who believe in securing the border and putting American workers, American retirees, and American children first,” said Nehlen.
A Republican congressman’s new book details why it’s so difficult to bring about meaningful conservative reforms in Washington and how even GOP are quickly conditioned to go along to get along, a practice he says is driving up the debt and deeply eroding confidence in Washington.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, is beginning his second term in the House of Representatives, but his first two years in Congress provided enough fodder for his new book “Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think.”
Buck narrowly lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Colorado. Four years later he easily won a seat in the House after incumbent Cory Gardner embarked on a successful U.S. Senate bid.
Already convinced Washington was broken, It didn’t take long for Buck to discover it was far worse than he realized.
“What surprised me was learning the specifics of the corruption, learning the details and how the establishment and leadership uses certain influences to try to create discipline and order to a certain extent but to also make sure that the special interest groups are taken care of,” said Buck.
One of the first big surprises was the pressure put on all members to fundraise on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is tasked with winning House races. Buck says all members are obligated to raise money and those on lucrative committees are tasked with raising even more.
The most high-profile committees include Appropriations, Ways & Means, Energy & Commerce, Rules and Financial Services.
“We have dues and if you’re on an ‘A’ committee your dues are higher than if you’re on a ‘B’ committee. By higher, I mean $450,000 this year for being on an ‘A’ committee,” said Buck.
For members to reach that bar requires groveling to special interests.
“They are reached by approaching special interest groups and asking for money. The challenge is those groups expect something in return. So there is a quid pro quo. There is a system in place. you are required to pay dues and you are required to raise money. Part of that is going to be being influenced by people that you may not agree with,” said Buck.
And as the parties try to placate their special interest donors, spending keeps rising and debt keeps increasing. Buck says leadership, in turn, tries to protect members from having to cast controversial or unpopular votes.
“The long-term effect is that members of Congress are reluctant to take tough votes and they are not reluctant to add more debt to our national balance sheet,” said Buck.
In addition to raising money, members are also expected to toe the line in backing the leadership’s agenda. “Drain the Swamp” is filled with first and second-hand accounts of former House Speaker John Boehner forcefully demanding members vote a certain way, punishing them for voting against the his wishes by stripping committee assignments and congressional travel opportunities, and berating members in front of their colleagues.
Other GOP figures, all of whom are named in the book, are called out for refusing to allow members to see the text of what they were voting on in Appropriations Committee hearings or for excoriating colleagues for voting against the wishes of Chairman Hal Rogers.
Buck says it’s easy to be convinced to go with the flow in Washington and that’s why he says electing men and women of strong character is critical.
“Our founding fathers created a system of government that really depends on a moral people and principled elected officials. A lot of the individuals coming to D.C. are very well meaning and principled when they get to D.C,” said Buck.
“I think there is a corrupting influence in the swamp. Ultimately, I think most people who are members of Congress start to compromise their values and start to figure out how they can get re-elected and avoid taking tough votes. That’s really the central issue in what’s corrupting the system,” said Buck.
Buck is very tough on Boehner in the book but says current House Speaker Paul Ryan runs a much better process.
“Paul Ryan is a policy wonk. He is a very bright individual. He can talk policy with anybody and does his best to convince people through good policy rather than through threats and intimidation or any kind of benefits. The policy and the politics are much more separated with Paul Ryan than they were with John Boehner,” said Buck.
But he notes Ryan has some key tests to pass in this Congress.
“We’ll see soon with the health care initiative and other initiatives on tax reform and immigration, whether Paul is going to be able to bring a coalition together to get that job done,” said Buck.
And how can the culture of Congress be turned around?
“I think we get out of this with good principled people. I think we get out of this with Americans reading this book, understanding what is going on in D.C. in some detail and exercising and exerting influence from the outside to make sure that we reform,” said Buck.
“We need to make sure that the pay-to-play system is ruled unethical by the Ethics Committee and that it stops. I think there’s a lot of reforms that we can enact inside Congress. I think we also need to work from the outside to pass important measures like a balanced budget amendment,” said Buck.
One of Buck’s greatest concern is the nation’s $20 trillion in official debt, especially with entitlements and unfunded liabilities set to explode over the next decade. He suggests one the most irresponsible patterns in Congress is to pass government funding through emergency omnibus measures, rather than through the individual appropriations bills.
Buck says there hasn’t been regular order on appropriations since 1994.
“When we don’t go through regular order and pass 12 appropriations bills that are discussed on the floor and open for amendment, we end up with a last-minute crisis management situation, where we’re told we have to keep government open,” said Buck.
“A lot of spending programs are put into the omnibus bill that members don’t know about because we have very little time to review that bill, and it costs taxpayers more money,” said Buck.
Buck says he wrote the book to get Americans even more motivated to clean up our politics.
“I’d like to make sure people understand that D.C. is broken and that it is each American’s responsibility and to stand up and take action. I hope it motivates people to be involved in the system,” said Buck.
The first man to sue the federal government over the Affordable Care Act says Republicans are breaking their campaign promises to repeal the health care law and are instead abandoning free market principles with legislation that will make health care even worse and let the Democrats off the hook for the blame.
Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli III launched the first constitutional challenge to the law, widely known as Obamacare, in 2010. His efforts, along with others, ultimately ended in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that saved President Obama’s most significant domestic policy.
Late Monday, House Republicans unveiled the text of the American Health Care Act and promoted as a means of getting Washington out of health care, reducing costs and regulations and setting the stage for market-based reforms.
But Cuccinelli says the bill is nothing more than a GOP version of Obamacare.
“This is a sloppy Democrat bill. The people who call this Obamacare-lite are wrong. It’s not lite. It’s just a Republican form. This is a really terrible piece of legislation on its own merits. It’s even worse when you realize this is what’s supposed to pass for keeping their promise to actually repeal Obamacare,” said Cuccinelli.
He says any members trying to keep their promise to repeal the law have to vote against it.
“The problem for conservatives is if it doesn’t really mean actually getting rid of Obamacare and all of the worst features of it, then it should be voted against,” he said.
“Otherwise, it’s an adoption by the Republicans of all the worst elements of Obamacare. They’re going to own the consequences. They’re going to own those price increases and health insurance increases, which will keep happening,” said Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli says it will be up to congressional Republicans to get this right because President Trump has yet to wade into many specifics.
“Whatever bill gets to the president’s desk, he’s going to sign it. He was very unspecific in the campaign. They’ve been very unspecific in the last week or two. Clearly, they just want to check this box and ‘get it done,’ whatever that means,” said Cuccinelli.
Republicans ran on repealing Obamacare in the past four election cycles. The issue was largely responsible for the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. Cuccinelli says the promise resonated with voters, so it makes no sense to abandon that mission now.
“They’re all running around, at least leadership is, afraid that they’ll upset somebody. Well, I’ve got news for you. People are already upset, and it isn’t a question of whether people are upset after you do whatever you’re going to do. If that’s all you care about, what will they be more upset about: doing what you said you would or going in another direction?” said Cuccinelli.
“If you go in another direction to appease a constituency you didn’t rely on to get elected, what you’ve succeeded in doing is ticking everyone off. That’s the direction Republicans are headed right now,” Cuccinelli.
But Cuccinelli goes a step farther. He says Republicans are really abandoning a full repeal because they do not actually want a market-based health care system.
“They don’t want the regulations to go away. That’s their dirty little secret. They don’t want market-based health care. They want big government control, even though someday it’s all going to come crashing down just because of how bankrupt it will all be,” said Cuccinelli.
He says GOP leaders have gotten comfortable turning to government to address problems.
“Let’s take (House Speaker) Paul Ryan for instance. Paul Ryan has never done anything in his adult life except be in government. It’s his solution to every perceived problem. He doesn’t rely on the market. He doesn’t trust the one force in the history of the world that has raised more people up out of poverty than any other, and that’s free market capitalism,” said Cuccinelli.
So what does Cuccinelli specifically see s the biggest problems with the GOP bill?
“There were 24 major regulations with Obamacare. Under Ryancare, 22 and a half of those stay in place. And of course we get blessed with a brand new entitlement. I don’t know if anybody in the Republican leadership noticed, but we are bankrupt. They do nothing really to resolve that problem,” said Cuccinelli.
“They make no move toward a market-based approach to health care. There’s no expansion of freedom and there’s no reason for people to want to become a doctor any more than under Obamacare,” he added
Supporters of the GOP point out that this legislation needs to start the reform process because it can pass through reconciliation, meaning a simple majority in both chambers can get the job done. They also suggest Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price can tackle most of the regulations unilaterally. Then, they say market-based ideas can come in later legislation.
Cuccinelli isn’t buying it.
“I could swallow [all of that] a whole lot more easily if the first bill was a repeal bill. So if you want us to trust you, then you do what you said you were going to do. Is that really too much to ask? Just do what you’ve been promising for seven years,” said Cuccinelli.
“Don’t put it on Tom Price to get rid of the regulations. You do it in the legislation. You do it as part of the vote. It’s what repealing means,” said Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli says Republicans had no problem passing a full repeal in 2015 so there’s no good reason not to pass it again.
“All of them have voted on that bill. Were they lying then when they voted on it? It sure seems like it now. Why not just pass a true repeal again?” he said.
“They were loudly speechifying back then. Now they’re using scare tactics to say, ‘Those of you people who want to hold us up for this repeal bill are for Obamacare,” said Cuccinelli.
“That is the worst kind of ducking of a debate on the substance of an important, important issue to every family in America. And it’s a dodge on their campaign promises. They’re all breaking their promises and making liars out of themselves,” said Cuccinelli.
Conservatives in Congress are increasingly frustrated by what has been leaked about the Obamacare repeal legislation and by what they see as a lack of transparency, even as House Speaker Paul Ryan insists Republicans are all on the same page and predicts unity on a final vote.
For most congressional Republicans, what they know of the repeal is what they read in a leaked report on the purported bill last week. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made headlines by unsuccessfully trying to get a hard copy of the legislation.
Most Republicans don’t know what’s currently being put together.
“I think it’s mostly members of committees with jurisdiction. You’re talking about members on Energy & Commerce and members on Ways & Means. That’s probably as far as it goes,” said Jason Pye, director of public policy and legislative affairs at FreedomWorks, which has endorsed the replacement bill authored by Sen. Paul.
“Maybe the broader conference knows the general discussion of what’s going on,” said Pye. “The actual legislative text is what matters. That’s where the nuances come into play.”
FreedomWorks shares the frustrations of Sen. Paul and other lawmakers clamoring for details.
“I think Sen. Paul has a point that this entire process is being done largely in secret. Americans deserve to know what’s going on. Are we going to see Obamacare-lite or are we actually going to see a real patient-centered alternative,” said Pye.
What would real transparency look like?
“We should be having hearings as the bill is going through. Why not have debates on C-SPAN while it’s being discussed and being drafted?” asked Pye.
On Friday, Politico reported that GOP leaders hoped to vote on repeal later this month and they were prepared to “steamroll” conservatives into backing the plan.
“They say they have no problem steamrolling conservatives by daring them to vote against an Obamacare repeal that their constituents have demanded for years,” reported Politico.
“‘Conservatives are going to be in a box,” said one senior Republican lawmaker. Trump, the source predicted, eventually will “go out front and … tell the conservatives … they’re either for this or for keeping Obamacare,'” the report continued.
That’s a far cry from the assurance of unity Ryan offered at his weekly press conference on Thursday.
“We’re all working off the same piece of paper, the same plan. So we’re in sync – the House, the Senate, and the Trump administration – because this law is collapsing. You can’t just repeal it. You have to repeal it and replace it with a system that actually works. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Ryan.
“I am perfectly confident that when it’s all said and done we’re going to unify because we all, every Republican, ran on repealing and replacing and we’re going to keep our promises,” added Ryan.
Pye says FreedomWorks is just as eager to scrap Obamacare, but he says how it’s done is vital.
“The speaker said that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare is entitlement reform. That certainly should be the case but the problem is we’re repealing one entitlement and creating a new one. You don’t do that as conservatives, especially one who claims to be a fiscal conservative,” said Pye.
He says if the leaked version of the bill is accurate, there is a lot to oppose in there.
“We were surprised to see the Republican version of the individual mandate included in this bill. We were surprised to see $100 billion in new mandatory spending over the next ten years in this bill. We didn’t anticipate that. We didn’t anticipate the new Republican version of the Cadillac Tax in this bill. We weren’t old those thing,” said Pye.
In the end, will leaders twist enough conservative arms to pass the plan? Pye doesn’t think so.
“Leadership is really who’s in a box right now. If the 70 conservatives in Congress stick together, if you keep 41 of those guys and maybe a couple more, [leaders] don’t 218 votes to repeal and replace,” said Pye.
“They’re going to have to listen to conservatives in the conference. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is. And right now, this Lee, Cruz, and Paul trifecta sticks together, [Republicans] only have 52 seats in the Senate. You’re going to get Democratic votes on either side. You have to listen to conservatives,” said Pye.
Conservatives are already explaining what they want, namely in bills offered by Sen. Paul and Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
“It puts individuals on the same playing field as employers. It gives states the option for flexibility through Medicaid, allowing them to seek waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services. It expands [Health Savings Accounts] to the point at which you can pay your health insurance premiums out of that,” said Pye
“Those are patient-center alternatives and consumer-friendly alternatives that improve the health system and truly empower Americans to make their health care choices,” said Pye.
If conservative ideas are now adopted into the replacement bill, Pye suspects Republicans may abandon the effort to pass a repeal and replacement together. He says passing a repeal similar to the one President Obama vetoed last year might be where the GOP factions find common ground.
“I know everybody wants to get this over with now and I do as well, but there is no difference, fundamentally, between what we did in 2015 and what we should be doing now, other than the disagreements over replace. If we can’t figure out replace, let’s come back another day, but let’s go ahead and start the process on repeal,” said Pye.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review applaud House Speaker Paul Ryan for quashing an attempt by some Republicans to bring back earmarks. They also slam the defiant Democratic mayors who insist illegal immigrants will be fully protected from deportation in their cities. And they discuss the social media crackdown on fake news and what passes for journalism on the left these days.