Republicans face some challenges this fall, including government funding, a fight to defund Planned Parenthood, spending level negotiations, the debt ceiling — but an outside center-right group is telling conservatives these challenges can be opportunities, if lawmakers are realistic.
Neil Bradley, the former deputy chief of staff for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor and now the chief strategy officer for the Conservative Reform Network, dropped an open letter Tuesday titled "Policy Challenges and Opportunities."
In the 1,303-word missive, Bradley proposes a strategy for conservatives that encourages Republicans to say yes to "half a loaf" and come back for more.
On Planned Parenthood, Bradley advises members to settle for a separate vote to defund the group, rather than trying to defund Planned Parenthood through an upcoming continuing resolution.
"There is no doubt, given the current president and the lack of 60 votes in the Senate, that insisting on including that proposal as part of a CR will result in another government shutdown," Bradley writes in the letter from the Conservative Reform Network, formerly known as the Young Guns Network.
Bradley told CQ Roll Call Tuesday there was real harm in leading voters to believe Republicans could actually defund Planned Parenthood in a CR, and he said it was damaging to the end goal if Republicans pushed ahead with a CR that actually did that.
"If your concern is the policy and the principle," Bradley said, "I don’t know how you advance those things if you’re adopting the strategy that, one, everyone admits upfront is going to fail, and two, in the process of failing, will actually divide your own supporters."
On the debt limit, Bradley doesn't think Republicans should cave to a "clean" raise, though he also told CQ Roll Call that dollar-for-dollar cuts to raise the debt ceiling was "not doable under the current political makeup."
Instead, Bradley suggests three conditions for raising the debt limit:
• Apply cost-benefit analysis requirements for regulations to independent regulatory agencies. President Obama’s own Jobs Council endorsed this reform. Given the amount of regulatory activity one can expect from agencies in the last year and half of the President’s term, now is a key time to impose cost-benefit analysis requirements. • Expedite permitting and environmental reviews for energy and infrastructure projects. Conservatives have long complained about federal red tape stalling infrastructure projects and hurting economic growth. Recent demonstrations of bipartisan support for reform in the Senate has created an opening conservatives should seize upon. • Lift the ban on crude oil exports. While lower oil prices have helped consumers, they have also led to massive job losses — by some counts around 100,000 — in the domestic oil industry. Lifting the outdated ban on U.S. oil exports would not only help those Americans employed in the oil industry but also, according to most analysis, potentially lead to even lower gas prices.Bradley told CQ Roll Call that, while Republicans "absolutely shouldn't concede" a debt limit raise upfront, they should "understand the realistic parameters."
"You can’t get there on discretionary anymore," Bradley said of dollar-for-dollar cuts, often referred to as the Boehner rule, "and we’re nowhere near agreement between the parties on the mandatory side."
Of course, Bradley understands that voting to raise the debt limit in exchange for concessions on things such as environmental permits won't have the red-meat appeal of Republicans swearing to never vote for more debt. But he thinks engaging in the process and being realistic could advance policies that have value to conservatives.
Bradley lays out a similar strategy in the letter for raising the discretionary spending caps. Overall, Bradley argues that conservatives have more to win by compromising.
Here is the full text of the letter:
TO: Washington Policymakers and Interested Parties FR: Neil Bradley, Chief Strategy Officer, Conservative Reform Network DT: September 8, 2015 RE: Policy Challenges and Opportunities It has been a rollercoaster of a summer for American families. Economic anxieties are growing, and confidence is falling. Millions of families with 401k retirement plans or 529 college savings accounts have held their breath in recent weeks as the markets sharply declined. The presidential primary contests in both parties are doing more to erode confidence in the political system than to restore it. Americans are questioning whether we will ever return to the type of responsible governance that reflects America’s values and can create the conditions for future economic growth and prosperity. All of this makes what our elected officials do over next four months all that more important. The steps policymakers take can either add to the anxiety and uncertainty or help create the building blocks for future prosperity and a renaissance of our values. Conservative policymakers, in particular, face a number of challenges which, if handled correctly, can actually create new opportunities. These challenges-turned-opportunities include: • Extension of government funding after September 30th and the issues surrounding the Planned Parenthood videos; • The need to increase the debt limit; and • Negotiations over discretionary spending levels. Shutdown / Planned Parenthood: Some of the same people who pushed attaching defunding Obamacare to the Continuing Resolution (CR) two years ago are now advocating attaching defunding of Planned Parenthood to this year’s CR. Regardless of the merits, which are strong, of transferring funding from Planned Parenthood to community health centers, there is no doubt, given the current president and the lack of 60 votes in the Senate, that insisting on including that proposal as part of a CR will result in another government shutdown. Ironically, while the government would be shut down, Planned Parenthood would continue receiving taxpayer funds through the Medicaid program, which is not subject to annual appropriations and which apparently provides something like three-fourths of all the funds Planned Parenthood receives from federal programs. Even worse, a government shutdown – replete with news stories about troops not being paid, etc. – is exactly what the defenders of Planned Parenthood’s barbarous practices want in order to distract the American people from the hideous conduct on display in these videos. Members of the Senate have already gone on record and voted on the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood. It is important that the members of the House likewise go on record. A stand-alone vote, similar to that in the Senate, will demonstrate to the American people where their elected representatives stand on this issue. It is also worth keeping in mind the ultimate goal. If Planned Parenthood (or anyone else) continued to do all the things that have been shown in the videos but just did not receive government money, that would still be unacceptable. Dismembering unborn children to harvest their organs shocks the conscience and should not be permitted in a just society. Oklahoma and Kansas enacted legislation this year banning dismemberment abortions. Much like the work that went to enacting the partial birth abortion ban, a focus on this horrible procedure and the pain it inflicts might both win hearts and minds and ultimately lead to better policy. It took eight years and a change in president to enact the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, but during that time, the number of Americans who described themselves as pro-life increased by 12 points. Debt Limit: Even the most austere budget plans put forward during the budget debate earlier this year would require a near-term increase in the debt limit. As the last four years have demonstrated, there is no chance that both parties will come to agreement on major entitlement reforms to attach to a debt limit. That doesn’t mean a debt limit should be “clean” as liberals argue. Every debt limit increase is an opportunity to enact fiscal or economic reforms. For example, the Congressional Review Act was attached to a debt-limit increase in 1996. Rather than walking away or threatening a possible default, conservatives have an opportunity to offer their support for a debt-limit increase in exchange for important, achievable reforms that could improve the economy, and a growing economy means lower deficits. A few reforms that, if pushed, could garner the support of Democrats and the White House and be enacted include: • Applying cost-benefit analysis requirements for regulations to independent regulatory agencies. President Obama’s own Jobs Council endorsed this reform. Given the amount of regulatory activity one can expect from agencies in the last year and half of the President’s term, now is a key time to impose cost-benefit analysis requirements. • Expedite permitting and environmental reviews for energy and infrastructure projects. Conservatives have long complained about federal red tape stalling infrastructure projects and hurting economic growth. Recent demonstrations of bipartisan support for reform in the Senate has created an opening conservatives should seize upon. • Lifting the ban on crude oil exports: While lower oil prices have helped consumers, they have also led to massive job losses – by some counts around 100,000 – in the domestic oil industry. Lifting the outdated ban on U.S. oil exports would not only help those Americans employed in the oil industry but also, according to most analysis, potentially lead to even lower gas prices. Devote Any Additional Domestic Spending to Long-Term Investments: The debate around the budget earlier this year made clear that Republicans rightly will insist on spending above the current budget caps for national defense. The president and Senate Democrats have made equally clear that enacting any increase for defense spending will also require an increase for non-defense. Negotiations are now inevitable. Conservatives will face a choice: either refuse to support any deal that increases non-defense and thus cede more leverage to liberals or engage and help determine where additional non-defense funds will be spent. If they disengage, conservatives increase the likelihood that liberals will spread around funds to boost the budgets of the very agencies conservatives are trying to restrain. If they engage, conservatives have a chance to demand that increased domestic spending should be walled off for things like: • Boosting medical research at NIH; • Increasing federal investments in infrastructure; and • Increasing funding for basic R&D. While conservatives, at times, have differed on the economic merits of funding these types of programs, there ought to be agreement that increasing spending in all three is preferable to allowing liberals to increase spending on expanding the number of government bureaucrats or to launch new social engineering programs. There are some who will argue that each of these suggestions is a compromise and that conservatives should resist such compromises. It is true each of these suggestions is a compromise, a compromise that reflects that conservatives neither control the White House nor have 60 votes in the Senate. But with conservative majorities in the House and Senate, conservatives still have a crucial role to play, and if they play it, the policy outcome will be more conservative than would otherwise occur. Next week, we will celebrate Constitution Day. Earlier this year, Joseph Ellis released his latest book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, that chronicles how our Constitution came into being. Ellis reminds readers that some of our most revered Founding Fathers compromised significantly to the political constraints of the day when crafting our Constitution. James Madison, the “Father of Constitution,” even initially considered the proposed Constitution a “failure,” because it did not include his proposal to authorize the new federal government to veto state laws and because the composition of the Senate was not based on population. Madison rallied behind the proposed Constitution anyway, and because he did, the product was better than it otherwise would have been. For 226 years, elected conservatives have faced similar dilemmas, but America has prospered when, as Ronald Reagan observed, conservatives say yes to “half a loaf” and then come back for more.
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