Forget about the fireworks on the campaign trail. This past week, things were more incendiary — and more interesting — in Washington, D.C.
The fireworks began when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced plans to call for a vote on resurrecting the Export-Import Bank. Previous efforts to extend this New Deal-era subsidy program for big business had failed, and the agency’s authorization expired on June 30.
But as Ronald Reagan pointed out, the closest thing to eternal life is a government program. Rather than let the Ex-Im Bank stay dead, McConnell said he would call an unusual Sunday session to vote on resurrecting it.
That was all it took for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to go ballistic. He didn’t mince words. He took to the Senate floor on Friday and blasted McConnell:
What we just saw today 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.... Well, we now know that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment that he is willing to say things that he knows are false.
That was too much for the powers that be in Washington. When the Senate session began on Sunday, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the president pro tempore, issued the following warning:
The chair reminds all senators of the following paragraph from Rule 19 of the Standing Rules of the Senate … "No senator in debate shall directly or indirectly by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator."
Hatch went on to condemn any member who would use the Senate “as a tool to advance personal ambitions, a venue to promote political campaigns, and even a vehicle to enhance fund-raising efforts, all at the expense of proper functioning of this body.” Although Hatch didn’t mention Cruz by name, everyone knew who he was talking about. And just to make sure, the liberal media pounded it home repeatedly.
Yeah, I guess calling your Senate leader a liar could be considered “unbecoming.” Cruz, however, was unrepentant. He rose on Sunday and told the assembled senators, “I would note that it is entirely consistent with decorum and with the nature of this body traditionally as the world’s greatest deliberative body to speak the truth.”
In that Sunday session, we got a classic example of what McConnell and his allies consider the “proper functioning” of the Senate. First, they voted by 67-26 to resurrect the Export-Import Bank. Some 24 Republican senators joined their Democrat colleagues in voting “aye.”
By the way, the approval wasn’t of a standalone bill, but of an amendment to a highway bill that both sides agree must be approved by the end of July. This procedure meant that conservatives in the Senate couldn’t filibuster to prevent its passage.
In other words, the skids were greased to make sure the Ex-Im Bank would be resurrected. But conservatives weren’t allowed to use the same technique to further their goals.
At the same time it approved the Export-Import Bank, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have ended federal funding of Planned Parenthood. It defeated one by Cruz that would have blocked the lifting of sanctions on Iran until the country recognized the state of Israel and released American prisoners from its jails. And it also rejected an amendment that would have led to a procedural vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
So once again, conservatives got nothing. Or as Cruz put it, “Unfortunately, the way the current Senate leadership operates, there is one party, the Washington party.”
He’s absolutely right. Merely electing a majority of Republicans in the Senate (and keeping one in the House) isn’t enough if the leaders won’t fight for conservative principles.
We will never begin to turn things around so long as McConnell serves as Senate majority leader. Let’s make replacing him a key goal for 2016.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
Chip Wood was the first news editor of The Review of the News and also wrote for American Opinion, our two predecessor publications. He is now the geopolitical editor of Personal Liberty Digest. This article first appeared on PersonalLiberty.com and has been reprinted with permission.