04.15.2015 1

Republicans’ descent from principle on Iran, treaties, and budget control

By Rick Manning

White_Flag_EstablishmentThe continued descent of the Congressional Republicans away from the party’s fiscal responsibility and strong national security principles were on full display this week in two legislative “wins.”

Republicans were riding high after Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) led forty-six of his colleagues to sign a letter to the government of Iran explaining the role the Senate plays in ratifying treaties.  Momentum was building toward a veto-proof majority in favor of strengthening sanctions against the Iranian regime that seeks to develop a nuclear weapon, promises to use it against Israel, and is fomenting successful rebellions in places like Yemen that have thrown the entire Middle East into turmoil.

President Obama’s weak treaty that fundamentally provided Iran a pathway to get a nuke was being pilloried, and hopes ran high that Senate Republicans had finally seized the high ground from the President.  However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) came to the Democrats’ rescue just in time, as he negotiated a deal on sanctions legislation that reportedly allows 41 Democrats to block any attempt to stop implementation of Obama’s deal. Given the hammer turned to apparent rubber stamp by the desperate-for-consensus Corker, it’s a good thing that he wasn’t negotiating with the Iranians.

Further proof that Senate prerogatives were annihilated under the “sanctions” bill came when President Obama promised to sign it.

While national security advocates have seen their wings clipped by Corker, the Senate also put a tombstone over the notion that Republicans represent fiscal sanity and balanced budgets as the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions that would have upheld federal spending limits on the Medicare doc fix — a common action that Republicans took when in the minority.  However, 71 Senators voted to opt out of the budget law and eliminate the hard-fought spending limits that were established in the 2011 Budget Control Act.  The result is that Medicare spending will be increased an additional $200 billion in one decade alone and an estimated $500 billion in the next twenty years.

At a time when Republicans could rightfully have reclaimed their leadership on smaller government, lower taxes, deficits, and national security issues, the Senate chose to punt on these fundamental differentiators between the two political parties, with only 29 Republican Senators voting to protect the budget law.

By rejecting the tough choices this week, Senate Republicans have guaranteed a future President will face much more difficult budget choices, as they try to explain how their actions support smaller, more responsive government, a claim that those who pay attention will find harder and harder to believe.  They have also effectively neutered their treaty ratification powers by affirming that President Obama does not have to submit his Iranian agreement to Congress for ratification.

Consensus has been reached; Republicans surrendered; and the nation is worse off and less safe, both fiscally and militarily, than it was the day before.

The author is president of Americans for Limited Government.

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