- - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It is hard to say who had a worse week, Cecil the Zimbabwe lion that was lured from his refuge and slaughtered or the Senate Republican leadership. Cecil was only shot, skinned and beheaded. The Senate Republican leadership should have been so lucky.

The Senate leadership, if any entity led by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell could use the term leadership, had a simple task. They wanted to pass a multi-year highway bill. This would help senators go home and show they were bringing back the pork from D.C. This would make crony businesses happy, as the government would be spending money with them.

The highway train began to go off the rails when Texas senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor and in a highly unusual move, called Majority Leader McConnell a liar on the floor.

Mr. Cruz accused Mr. McConnell of lying to the Republican caucus and telling them there was no deal to revive the Export-Import Bank. The Ex-Im bank, as it is known, has been a target of conservatives for sometime. The Ex-Im bank has been accused of cronyism and picking winners and losers. Many conservatives who object to the Ex-Im bank say it simply funds companies like Boeing, who don’t need government support.

The story then got much worse. Conservatives had several bills they wanted attached to the highway bill because the highway bill is considered must pass legislation. One of the bills was to defund Planned Parenthood after the videos showing Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the costs of parts from aborted babies. One of them even insisted she wanted a Lamborghini.

Despite the atrocious publicity Planned Parenthood had received and the Republican Party’s alleged opposition to Planned Parenthood, the amendment to defund it went down in flames. So too did an amendment that would have repealed Obamacare. The Senate leadership blocked that amendment from even being considered.

For years, the Republicans have run on repealing Obamacare. Yet when they had the chance to put it on President Obama’s desk, as a part of a bill he would have had to sign, instead of fighting they raised Mr. McConnell’s freshly laundered white flag of surrender.

There was one other piece of legislation conservatives really wanted added to the highway bill. That was “Kate’s Law.” The law, named after Kate Steinle who was murdered in San Francisco by an illegal alien, specified that any illegal alien convicted of a violent crime in the U.S. after being deported, would have to serve a minimum five year sentence in federal prison.

Mr. McConnell blocked Kate’s law too.

Guess which amendment did not go down?

That was the amendment to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Despite Mr. McConnell’s claims there was no deal to bring the Export-Import Bank back, that is exactly what happened.

The Senate spent a bruising weekend fighting over this bill as the Republican leadership gave an extended middle finger to Ted Cruz and Senate conservatives. While the Senate leadership was busy giving Mr. Cruz the finger, they forgot to check with their colleagues in the House of Representatives. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is no fool. He saw the disaster the Senate highway bill had become and announced the House was not going to take it up. Instead, Mr. McConnell was humiliated by being forced to accept the House’s three-month extension of the current highway funding bill so the House and Senate can go on their August recess.

The fight over the highway bill is the classic case of a pyric victory.  Mr. McConnell and the Senate leadership manage to shut Mr. Cruz and the conservatives down. In the process of doing so, angered the base and exacerbated a deep rift in Republican politics.

Going into 2016, the Republicans are defending twice as many seats as the Democrats. There is a decent chance the Democrats will take back the Senate. Some of those Republican senators need the conservative base to get out and support them.

When the Republican Party cannot even defund Planned Parenthood when that organization is on the ropes, then what good is it? If the Republican Party can’t even keep its promise to pass a meaningful repeal of Obamacare, what good is it? If the Republicans cannot pass Kate’s Law, what good is the GOP? If the Republicans are only listening to the Chamber of Commerce and only passing cronyist legislation, what good are they?

Conservatives all across America are asking these questions and the Republicans may find out the hard way in 2016 that they have failed the base for the final time.

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