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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Playing by the (senate) rules will guarantee defeat for GOP this year

Rules are made to be broken.

It’s the ultimate mantra of rebel-minded youths seeking to extricate themselves from the routine of a daily high school schedule or perhaps even the basic philosophy of “outsider” President Donald Trump. And for those hoping to drain the Washington swamp there’s no better way to do it than by throwing out the old “rule book” Mitch McConnelland getting real with a new way of doing things.

By the looks of it rules changes may be in store for the United States senate, a place where the customs and traditions of the past don’t make much sense any longer.

Alexander Bolton reported in The Hill last weekend, “Senate Republicans are battling over whether to use the so-called nuclear option to speed-up consideration of President Trump’s nominees.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is under pressure from conservative colleagues and outside groups to change the Senate’s rules to ensure a quicker pace on Trump’s court picks.

“Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) all want to change the rules with a simple majority vote — a tactic known as the ‘nuclear option’ because it is so controversial.”

Controversial? To whom? I don’t recall offhand who came up with the “nuclear option” term but from the outset it was, for lack of a better way to put it, “overblown.” Eliminating or changing an absurd senate rule (the filibuster) that isn’t found in the Constitution (and no longer makes sense in 21st century America) has nothing to do with a chemical chain reaction and everything to do with recognizing reality in politics today.

As has been widely reported, the Democrat senate minority is deliberately stalling President Trump’s administration and judicial nominees – all of them. Since some confirmations pass with significant majorities the delays aren’t solely due to ideological or philosophical differences. To put it in plain playground terminology, the dither tactics are being employed because Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is a “jerk.”

Bolton’s article quotes Schumer as once again dredging up the specter of Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s lame duck Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. At the time (mid-2016) of Garland’s elevation Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear he wasn’t going to act on any nominations in a presidential election year – so Obama’s action was purely symbolic and political -- from the beginning.

Even if it wasn’t, does McConnell’s strategy on Garland two years ago provide eternal justification for Schumer to insist on 30 hours of “debate” for each Trump nominee today? I haven’t seen any tallies but the number of hours wasted on this matter has to be in the thousands by now (or at least hundreds). All of this because the Majority Leader did something everyone agrees was perfectly within his right (refuse to grant Garland hearings or a vote)?

No, Schumer is using every scheme to deny President Trump of the personnel he needs to run his administration his way and by extension “Make America Great Again.” The number of federal judicial vacancies has actually increased during Trump’s first year because the Democrats won’t pass his appointees through the process.

A few Republicans are complicit in Schumer’s sensational design too, declaring outright that they won’t support changing the rules. The usual suspects – Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins – are the chief naysayers. With Senator John McCain afflicted with what is most likely terminal brain cancer the situation is further complicated.

Not surprisingly Texas Senator Ted Cruz devised (four) ways to work the current “rules” of the senate, bypass the filibuster completely and actually accomplish something voters can see before this November’s elections. Jim Geraghty of National Review reported Cruz said over the weekend, “You’ve got, number one, Congressional Review Act resolutions, which we’ve used to repeal a whole bunch of Obama-era regulations. We should use that more.

“Number two, rescissions — that allows you to pull back spending. The White House is talking about putting forward some rescissions. I think we ought to look at that seriously.

“Number three, the biggest one, is using budget reconciliation. That’s the vehicle for many of our biggest victories last year, including the tax cut. We ought to take up another reconciliation in 2018, and score more victories for the American people.

“Number four is NAFTA. I’ve proposed to the president using NAFTA as a vehicle for regulatory reform, lifting the burdens that are killing jobs. Under trade-promotion authority, that goes to Congress on an expedited up-or-down vote. Fifty votes and it can’t be filibustered.”

Listening to Cruz’s well thought-out plan is gratifying for those of us who identified him as the best choice for conservatives in the 2016 GOP primary field. Though almost all of us Cruz backers are now solidly in President Trump’s corner and acknowledge that our favored Republican probably wouldn’t have been able to pull off a general election victory over Hillary Clinton, it’s still great to see the ideas and themes that drove Cruz’s campaign getting play with the conservative audience even now.

Perhaps the single greatest selling point behind Cruz’s “four ways around the filibuster” proposal is all of them could be achieved under the existing “rules” and the oh-so-narrow GOP majority. If Cruz is correct, Murkowski and Collins would go along with at least some of these action items which would give the party semi-major legislative victories in an election year. Even more important (in some ways), it would provide Republican candidates in states like Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Dakota with plenty of wedge issues to paint bright pastels of distinction between them and their incumbent Democrat opponents.

The House elections will take care of themselves. Republican senators can’t do anything about the intrinsic problems associated with maintaining a GOP majority in the lower chamber (retirements, poor leadership, open speaker’s position, etc.). But there’s plenty Republican senators can do to improve their own chances. As of Monday the generic congressional ballot was Democrat +6.3, including one poll that placed the margin at a negligible D +3.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval rating inched up to a personal best of 43.2 percent (which includes a 49-49 tie in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll). Not too shabby considering all the Democrats’/media’s collective hissy fit over Robert Mueller and his ongoing fruitless witch hunt. Could it be that the few persuadable people left in the country are warming to Trump? Or maybe Mueller’s investigation is having an unanticipated effect of hurting the Democrats.

The concept is not so far-fetched. Roger L. Simon wrote at PJ Media, “Like a crackhead addicted to the next puff, Democrats and their media allies have spent most of the last sixteen months fixated on whether Trump somehow, some way, colluded with Putin.  Meanwhile, a zillion issues slipped by, some important, others less so, but the Democrats barely weighed in on anything, other than to whine about Trump.

“What a dumb mistake.  And it was compounded by the assumption that the public agreed with them, which was true for a while, to some extent, but has now worn surpassingly thin.  It didn't help that the tedious late-night talk show hosts and SNL comics fixated on Trump as well, creating a perfect (but utterly useless) storm...

“Mueller may be, in the end, the Democrats' best bet. But he is also their bête noir.  He is the man of supposed great moral rectitude who promised to rid them of the obvious injustice of the last election.  Unfortunately, Mueller turned out to be an extreme moral narcissist who, consciously or not, led the Democratic Party down a primrose path of impeachment that could never happen and would inflate (slowly, but still...) Trump's poll numbers while assuring him a second term and giving plenty of cannon fodder to Republican congressional candidates once embarrassed by the president.”

Each time the Democrats (and the media) think they’ve got something on Trump it ends up having the opposite effect on public opinion. False report upon false report (some might call it fake news) has eroded American attitudes to the point where the people’s psyche is virtually impregnable to the latest piece of gossip or “gotcha” liberal news gimmicks.

The recent flare-up over Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre statements is a good example. If anything, the fact Giuliani is all over the place on his explanations of Trump’s past dealings muddies the waters of potential culpability even further. Who are you going to believe to the contrary, George Stephanopoulos? Is this the best Democrats have?

Meanwhile Trump is keeping attention focused on his upcoming meeting with NORK dictator Kim Jong-un and the prospect of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Objectively speaking, which draws more notice and comment from Americans – the possible intriguing face-to-face between the “outsider” president of the United States and the chubby cheese-eating mug of Jong-un or the somber blabberings of liberal media figures deliberating on what Robert Mueller is up to?

How many times can the media mention Robert Mueller before everyone tunes it out (the same could be said for conservative commentators as well). Wouldn’t people rather hear about what’s going on along the U.S. border now that the illegal alien “caravan” has arrived (and in some cases individuals are being granted permission to stay on U.S. soil because of “asylum” claims)?

Even those of us with legal backgrounds have a difficult time appreciating the legal maneuverings of Rod Rosenstein and Mueller. Can the president be subpoenaed? If so, can he ignore it? Can a sitting president be indicted (Mark Levin said an emphatic “no”)? And if he was, could the federal courts actually castigate him?

The Constitution indicates only the political branches have punishment power over the president (through impeachment). What’s unclear about that?

Why all the secrecy? It’s a mess, one that makes normal people gaze at the media-generated melee with quizzical looks and a “huh?” state-of-mind. Frankly speaking, the so-called “villains” of this caper aren’t very interesting. Paul Manafort…who’s he? Michael Flynn could’ve been a compelling political figure if he’d served more than a week in the Trump administration. Flynn was gone so early and so long ago the less-informed don’t even remember who he is.

There’s no “there” there. Can’t we just move on?

Besides, we may be talking about a Supreme Court opening very soon. Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner reported, “The Washington rumor mill is churning with speculation about whether Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire at the end of the Supreme Court's term next month.

“The rumors seem to pop up annually in recent years. But with Kennedy’s 30th year on the high court passing in February and the justice nearing 82, the whispers about his future seem to be growing louder.

“And congressional Republicans haven’t been shy in vocalizing their hope for a vacancy on the high court before the 2018 midterm elections. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., for example, told an audience in March he believed Kennedy would retire around early summer.”

For what it’s worth Kennedy has already hired law clerks for next term and has given no indication he’s about to hang up the robe. Quinn added that outside groups are set in motion preparing for the next vacancy, so when it happens expect a furious storm of warring pundits firing broadsides at each other for months on end.

McConnell and Republican senators went “nuclear” on the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees last year, so any Trump designee would need only 50 votes for confirmation. It was a rule change that was long in coming and desperately needed.

So yes, in some ways rules are made to be broken. Just like with a law that’s repealed, rules outlive their usefulness and validity. Republicans would be smart to remember that bold moves – i.e. “breaking rules” – would not only help pass their agenda; the public would reward them for it too.

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