When the Republican Party took over the Senate this past January, one might have expected that certain things would be overturned, defunded, or passed in order to further conservative positions.
But that would be operating under the assumption that Republican leaders in the Senate have spines.
It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between more staunch conservatives and RINOs. At the beginning of this congressional year in the House, conservatives attempted to make their voices heard by trying to elect a new Speaker. Obviously, they failed. Now, issues like the Planned Parenthood scandal, the disaster of a nuclear deal with Iran, and the cronyism of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) are lighting fires under conservative Senators to make some waves before the August recess.
It’s a pity that their allies in the GOP don’t support them.
On Sunday, July 26, the Senate held a rare Sunday session to debate a highway bill that is set to expire on July 31. The session was also set to include a vote to add an amendment on the Ex-Im Bank to the highway bill. These votes, which already carry enough tension, were made even more tense after Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a liar on the senate floor on Friday, July 24. Sen. Cruz is known to be incendiary, but this latest outburst comes after Sen. Cruz claimed that Sen. McConnell promised that the Ex-Im amendment to the highway bill would not be brought to the floor.
Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times writes: “Mr. Cruz said allowing that vote on the measure, which will almost certainly pass, was ‘an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie.'”
Sen. McConnell did come out in opposition to renewing the Ex-Im Bank, which is a traditionally conservative viewpoint that is almost universally agreed on within the ever-growing field of GOP presidential hopefuls. This position did not, however, hold sway in the Senate, as 24 Republicans voted with the Democrats to revive the bank.
The loss on the Ex-Im Bank issue did not dissuade Sen. Cruz and one of his conservative allies, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), from proposing a host of bills, including an amendment concerning the Iranian nuclear deal, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Their efforts have been met with considerable disdain. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), among other top GOP leaders, expressed concern for the potential precedents this could set.
Manu Raju and Burgess Everett at Politico quote Sen. Cornyn in their piece on the session:
“If the rule that the junior senator from Texas is arguing for is embraced, we will lose all control of the Senate schedule. There will be chaos,” Cornyn said. “Any senator who wants to get a vote on an amendment will be entitled to do so and that can’t be the rule. It’s not the rule. It’s never been the rule.”
Sen. Cruz’s logic, however, was not misplaced. If the party leadership can tack the Ex-Im Bank amendment to a highway bill, what’s to stop other senators from acting on legislation they support?
If Sen. Cornyn is worried about the senate not getting anything done, however, he ought to check their record: if they’ve done anything (which they really haven’t), they’ve upheld most of the Democratic legislation supported by President Obama. This has been confirmed by several other leading Republicans, including the longest serving Republican senator, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who claims that “the Senate floor has too often become a forum for partisan messaging and ideological grandstanding rather than a setting for serious debate.”
Sen. Cruz responded to his critics with an op-ed in the Daily Signal, apologizing for the actions of “the Washington party.” He continued to link Sen. McConnell with Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and lambasted him for blocking votes on Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, which has been under fire due to a series of sting videos documenting their sales of aborted baby parts.
Planned Parenthood is one issue that is definitely worthy of the “serious debate” to which Sen. Hatch is referring. In the last week, over 70 cities held rallies decrying Planned Parenthood’s deplorable actions, which have been documented in a series of undercover videos. This is clearly an important issue to many Americans, and for Sen. Cornyn to call America’s abortion industry, a dangerous nuclear deal, or other conservative causes topics of “ideological grandstanding” sorely misses the point.
Senators draft bills, debate, and vote on issues that are important to their constituents. If Republican senators continue to lack a spine and neglect the issues that are important to their constituents, then voters will neglect those senators come the next election.