Part of our mission is holding Congress accountable to their constituents. Too often, Members of Congress campaign one way and govern another. Our role is to call out Members for violating their principles and let the folks in their districts know.
Heritage Action’s frequent, principled clashes with the Washington Establishment made headlines this week. The Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d) framed it this way:
Behind much of the lobbying group’s heft are two tectonic shifts in American politics: conservative activists’ growing distrust of GOP leaders and the technological innovations that allow well-organized groups and individual politicians to connect directly with pockets of supporters and donors.
“Influence is being dispersed,” said Heritage Action Chief Executive Mike Needham. “The reason we’re controversial is that people don’t like change.”
After the stunning defeat of the food stamp and farm bill last month on the House floor, multiple reports have surfaced that Republican leaders are considering separating food stamps from farm programs. Now, thanks to unscripted, public comments by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), we know talk of separating the bill is nothing more than a procedural gimmick intended to perpetuate the status quo.
Asked about the so-called farm bill, Rep. Roe acknowledged he “thought the farm bill was about farming; it turns out its really not.” He explained “for the first time, we’re going to separate the farm bill” from the food stamp spending.
Without being prompted, he outlined the strategy: “We’ll take the farm bill and the food stamp bill and separate those two. Vote both of those and send them to the Senate. And then it’ll come back as one bill in a conference and we’ll hopefully get something…”
On Friday afternoon around 2:30 PM, fourteen Senators officially introduced a 1,190-page substitute amendment. On Monday at 5:30 PM, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the motion to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate) on that amendment. For those keeping track at home, that allows Senators (many of whom left town Thursday night), staffers, and the American people less than 75 hours to read, analyze and evaluate this 1,190-page amendment.
(Note: Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) used a procedure known as “filling the tree” to ensure no more amendments could be offered to this massive amendment, which like the original Gang of Eight plan was drafted behind closed doors.)
The short time frame stands in stark contrast to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) repeated pledge for an open and transparent process. On June 11, Sen. Rubio boasted, “Since the bill was introduced two months ago, the open and transparent process it has undergone has elicited constructive criticisms to improve it.”
Sen. Rubio’s colleagues will not have the same opportunity to evaluate the newest 1,190-page version of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) amnesty plan.
CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD. Moderate Republicans aren’t putting their best foot forward to unite the GOP around conservative principles:
Rep. Tom Cole has firmly staked out a position as a foil to conservative hard-liners in the GOP conference, using the media’s megaphone to push back against Republicans who want to hold a firmer line in spending battles with President Barack Obama.
In recent weeks, he’s compared the GOP’s right flank to the drunk uncle of a dysfunctional family, suggested Republican critics of the Violence Against Women Act were racist, and singed the tactics of Speaker John A. Boehner’s detractors as “amateur night at the Bijou.”
Still, Cole’s recent moves have earned him some enmity on the right, with one GOP lawmaker privately calling him a “joke,” and his closeness to GOP leadership has prompted questions about whether Cole is speaking as a conduit on behalf of Ohio’s Boehner.
“As House GOP leaders push for unity on all fronts, moderates within the party appear exempt. Rarely are they called to the carpet for creating fissures within the party or initiating a circular firing squad,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America, a conservative outside group.