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Jewish World Review July 26, 1999/ 13 Av 5759

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Itís the 'moderates', stupid -- HOW WOULD YOU like to walk a mile in Dennis Hastert's shoes? Instead of so quickly condemning the leadership or the entire party, the GOP's perennial critics ought to consider the ideological makeup of the so-called Republican majority.

With Congressman Forbes switching parties, the Republicans enjoy only a narrow ten-vote majority in both Houses. With all of the GOP moderates and liberals, these majorities are more like pluralities. And don't forget that a partisan Democrat occupying the White House acts as a goalie to block all Republican legislation.

Even when the Republicans are able to cobble together a majority in both Houses behind a conservative measure, they face the inevitable prospect that it will be vetoed. Since it takes two thirds of both Houses to override a presidential veto, the Republicans are virtually powerless to advance a conservative agenda.

This sorry situation might be tolerable in the short run if the Republicans were able to parlay their legislative losses into political victories with the goal of passing the legislation down the road. But they are constantly frustrated in the political arena as well.

The good news is that the Republicans demonstrated that they are capable of uniting to thwart the initiatives of Clinton and congressional Democrats by defeating their Patientsí Bill of Rights legislation.

The bad news is that the Republicans passed their own watered-down version instead of making headway towards real market reform in health care, such as establishing medical savings accounts.

The GOP current tax cut proposal is a good illustration of the kind of obstacles the House leadership faces anytime it attempts affirmatively to scale back government.

The tax cut proposal started at $864 billion. But to placate moderates it was reduced to $792 billion (the size of the concurrent Senate proposal). Wednesday, under further pressure from moderates who were threatening to propose their own downscaled bill ($500 billion), the leadership agreed to make their $792 billion cut contingent on progress in reducing the national debt. This means that the tax cut will be phased in only if the interest on the national debt doesn't rise in any given year. And these moderates call themselves Republicans!

As if GOP opposition weren't enough, Bill Clinton has chosen his ever-ready class-warfare arguments to oppose the bill. He said that we need tax cuts, but not those proposed by the GOP. "Tax cuts should be in the national interest, not special interests." Translation: the GOP tax proposal will disproportionately benefit the rich. Will someone explain to me how an even, across-the-board reduction disproportionately benefits the rich?

Of course their reduction in actual dollars will be greater because their income is greater! If anything, it proves just how much more the rich are paying.

Clinton also had the audacity to say that under the Republican plan military spending would have to be cut to dangerous levels. Now let me get this straight: The man who has cut military spending in half while exponentially increasing our military commitments is sermonizing about jeopardizing the military? He has no shame.

The worst problem isn't the GOP itself, or its leadership. It's the liberal and moderates among their ranks masquerading as Republicans. As Dick Armey (R-Tex.) said, "We know how many horses there are in the herd. It's just a question of how to get them all in the barn."

Even when the House manages to pass an anemic reform measure, it must survive the Senate and receive the President's signature (fat chance!) or override his veto (fatter chance!).

So I repeat, what is Dennis Hastert supposed to do? Though he knows the bill will never become law as long as Clinton is President, he must try to get it through the House (and Senate) or his Republicans wonít even be able to preserve it as a political issue.

The solution is not for Republicans to give up on the party. It is to elect more conservative Republicans

Probably the most profound aspect of the Contract With America was that Republicans were able to nationalize congressional elections.

Using that model, the GOP should go a step further in the 2000 campaign. They should explain the pitfalls of divided government and endeavor to elect a President and obtain significant majorities in both Houses.

Those considering abandoning the party should be mindful of the potential consequences of their actions and of their real enemies. Only if Republicans can capture both the executive and legislative branches (with conservatives) do we have a chance of achieving meaningful conservative reforms.

Let's quit beating each other up and unite towards victory.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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