- - Wednesday, July 27, 2022

There were two recent votes in Congress, one in the Senate and one in the House, that give us some insight into why, despite the epic failings of Team Biden, the elections in November are still very much an open question.

On the first vote, 47 House Republicans — including the chairman of the Freedom Caucus — voted with all the Democrats for the Respect for Marriage Act. If the legislation becomes law, it would require the federal government to recognize pretty much any formulation of marriage that any single state could possibly arrange.

On the second vote, the Senate approved a $280 billion bill that would give semiconductor manufacturers $52 billion. That is a sketchy enough proposition, although given what communist China might be learning from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the attendant concerns over our reliance on Taiwan for semiconductors, it is probably defensible.

What is not defensible is that the legislation throws more than $200 billion at various other constituencies, mostly the federal bureaucracy and academia, who are for the most part durable opponents of Republicans. Nevertheless, 17 Republican senators inexplicably voted for the legislation.

Both votes exposed unhappy truths about some of the congressional Republicans.

First, they don’t seem to care about the integrity of the legislative process. In both instances, legislation was brought to the floor without the benefit of being examined and improved by the committee process. The only real power that most members of Congress have resides in their ability to alter legislation as it travels through that process. Once the process is taken away, the only relevant vote a single member takes is the organizing vote at the start of each Congress.

Second, there are some Senate Republicans who remain, for whatever reason, indifferent to federal spending and, by extension, the size of the federal leviathan. They are not alone. The few Republican policy plans or platforms that exist have avoided discussing reduced spending in any depth. Very few Republicans have talked about the possibilities of spending rescissions should they take the majority.

Finally, one could conclude that a sizable fraction of the House Republican caucus is either indifferent to or afraid of important cultural issues or that they believe that the most eccentric state should set marriage policy for the rest of us.

With due respect to Utah and the Mormons, this problem goes beyond questions of polygamy. It is now clear that some on the left are consciously trying to lower the age of consent. Their logic will be simple: If you are old enough to consent to gender transition surgery — like say, 12 years old in the case of California — then you are probably capable of other kinds of consent involving sexuality.

These votes matter, especially with the 2022 elections upon us. There has been a wealth of survey data developed in the last few months that indicate that the House and Senate races are much closer than expected. Just last week, the Cook Report reduced the projected net Republican gains in the House from 35 to as little as 15. Each close Senate race shows an advantage for the Democratic incumbent or the Republican challenger leading but within the margin of error.

This is despite the broad and deep national consensus that Democratic rule has been terrible. The president has been underwater in surveys since the debacle in Afghanistan last August and has never recovered his footing.

The logical and unhappy conclusion from the survey data? While no one likes the Democrats (not even the Democrats), the Republicans are having trouble closing the deal with the public because voters remain unconvinced that they will be much different.

Given recent votes, one can hardly blame them.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House. 

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