Unhinged liberals or GOP progress? Republicans’ midterm message is clear
By: Scott Jennings
In 2016, Americans, tired of the gridlock produced by divided government, unified control of the Congress and executive branch under the Republican Party.
Their demand was simple: produce results and move this country forward. Now, with the midterm elections looming, Senate Republicans are preparing a September closing argument that they have delivered on the demand for progress.
If the Republican leadership plan holds, several big-ticket items and presidential nominees will clear the Senate before the end of the month, serving as a powerful message to voters that government is functioning well despite the chaos narrative being spun by the left.
Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court – Democrats haven’t laid a glove on Kavanaugh since President Donald Trump announced him and they have wasted millions of liberal donor dollars in their fruitless campaign. Confirmation hearings are underway, and unless something pops up we don’t know about, Kavanaugh, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised, will sit on the Supreme Court when it reconvenes in October.
Kavanaugh’s ascendancy serves as a capstone to what has been President Trump’s most successful operation: remaking the federal judiciary. Conservatives are snickering at the beating Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is taking from liberal activists for cutting a deal with McConnell last week to clear 15 of Trump’s lower court judges. McConnell’s decision to cancel the August recess paid off in spades for the president’s agenda.
The farm bill – Republicans must finish this vital legislation before Sept. 30, or farm policy reverts to a bill passed in 1949. A version passed both chambers and a conference committee was appointed to work out the differences.
The principal sticking point is whether to impose strict work requirements to the food stamp program. President Trump supports the requirements included in the House version, but a test vote on the issue garnered just 30 votes in the Senate earlier this year. This won’t pass the upper chamber and Republicans would be unwise to derail their closing argument over this fight.
With several big rural states holding Senate races this fall, Republicans should pass the farm bill now and deal with the work requirements later. As one Senate Republican told me, there are four key reasons for Trump to sign the farm bill before the midterm: Missouri, Indiana, Montana and North Dakota. Farmers were a big part of the president’s winning coalition in 2016; it would be unwise to abandon them on the farm bill so close to the next election.
Opioid package – The opioid addiction epidemic continues to destroy families and communities across the nation, and Congress appears poised to pass a package of bills designed to enhance treatment options and help get people back to work.
Senate Republicans have signed off on the legislation and are waiting for Democrats to do the same. Passage of this bill would send a powerful signal of responsiveness by the Republican Party to a problem that is having micro and macro negative impacts on the U.S.
Appropriations – This is not a done deal, but GOP leaders are hoping to pass several appropriations bills accounting for nearly 90 percent of the money needed to fund the federal government. This kind of progress hasn’t happened for a long time and would avoid a huge omnibus at the end of the year, which the president hates (and voters don’t like, either). The possible sticking point is whether the president will hold up the deal over funding for his border wall, but some reports indicate he understands the political risk of shutting down the government so close to an election.
Only 20 of the past 100 years have featured full Republican control of the federal government, and the GOP is preparing a powerful closing argument of functionality and good policy to voters who are evaluating whether to give them another two years.
By moving so broadly in September, Senate Republicans are sending a message that they are more interested in results than political point scoring, which matches the mood of most voters. Combine that with 4 percent unemployment and a robust job market, and voters may disregard the chaos narrative peddled by Democratic candidates. This is no time to fight over the wall or food stamp work requirements, as President Trump and Senate Republicans need to create a narrative of smooth running government before Congress leaves town to campaign.
The fall Republican message is clear – conservative results versus unhinged liberal rhetoric. Let’s see if the party can deliver and make it stick.
Scott Jennings is a CNN Contributor and Partner at RunSwitch Public Relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ScottJenningsKY on Twitter.