This week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 22
- Spending deal is a win for conservatives, even the ones who will vote against it Wednesday
- Ron DeSantis has an imperfect launch, but generates interest and big bucks
- Cruz leads, but the poll bnumbers look terrible for him anyway
Debt ceiling deal: Conservatives are frowning and complaining about the debt ceiling deal that speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) struck with President Joe Biden over the holiday weekend. But they have to be smiling, at least a little bit, on the inside.
Although many conservatives will vociferously oppose it, and even more will vote no, no one can deny that McCarthy accomplished something here. For the first time in anyone’s memory, managed to turn the debate over the debt limit against the Democrats, and he used that to gain concessions on spending for the next two years. That’s more than any Republican leader or group of Republicans has ever accomplished in the past.
The deal raises the debt ceiling for two years instead of just one (a concession by Republicans), but it also caps spending for this year and next year (a Democratic concession). It throws out the pause on student loan repayments which Biden (illegally) instituted, claws back $28 billion in unused COVID funds, rescinds $1.4 billion for new IRS agents, and imposes work requirements for welfare recipients — all of which were Republican demands.
Are the concessions too modest? Yes, probably they are. McCarthy’s initial ask was for much more. Conservatives generally want to see much bigger limitations on spending, especially after the massive run-up in annual spending that occurred under COVID.
But by merely forcing a completely unwilling Biden to the table and then making him agree to a deal with provisions he obviously hates, McCarthy has created a new precedent. From now on, debt ceiling rises are occasions to demand at least modest spending reforms.
This is why the Left is so infuriated. As Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) put it in a tweet, “It can’t be overstated just how dangerous this kind of hostage taking of our nation’s credit is to our economy and standing around the world.”
In other words, Democrats don’t want there to be any deals that involve limiting spending in order to get an increase on the nation’s credit limit — they just want a license to spend unlimited money, forever.
Now, many of them will be forced to vote for this bill or pressured to vote for it by the Biden administration,even though it restricts spending in ways to which they strongly object. In fact, even as she railed against the idea, Murray importantly did not pledge to vote against the deal, instead promising to read it over.
The case for tying debt ceiling increases to spending reforms has always been a good one, but Republicans have never managed to sell it until now. Raising the debt ceiling is not about paying bills already incurred. Rather, it is about borrowing to spend even more money without actually having to pay any outstanding bills in the long run. This is how federal government borrowing works — each new issue of bonds, larger than the last one, is used to pay off the bonds coming due. This goes on perpetually, such that the failure to borrow more would cause the entire scheme to collapse.
But Republicans have lost these battles in the past, again and again, because they have been too inflexible in their demands with such showdowns in the past. The difference this time was that, by passing a debt ceiling bill, they won the moral high ground from the very beginning.
Even if this deal passes — which it probably will with Republican and Democratic support — the U.S. will be far from spending within its means.
But this deal is still good news because it means that more such deals can be made in the future. It has also disarmed the Democrats’ dramatic arguments. These negotiations occurred and, would you believe it, no hostages were killed. When the deal passes, the economy will have survived. And it will also work out next time, when another such deal is struck.
And conservatives — even the ones who vote against it — helped make it happen simply by helping pass a debt ceiling increase, and then pulling as hard as they could to the right throughout the entire process.
Ron DeSantis: The Florida governor’s presidential launch was definitely less than perfect. In fact, it could be viewed as something of a technical disaster.
But that doesn’t mean too much for his campaign. Aside from Trump’s 2015 escalator launch — memorable mostly because people in the media thought it so absurd at the time — most people could not describe any campaign launches of the past.
The more important fact is probably that DeSantis generated enough interest to draw 700,000 simultaneous viewers, which apparently was enough to cause the technical problems, and raised over $8 million in the first 24 hours of his candidacy.
This is at least evidence that he has been doing the work necessary to get a real campaign going, and at this moment he is the only serious alternative to former President Donald Trump. DeSantis is definitely trailing Trump in the polls, but Trump is facing a number of obstacles that DeSantis and other Republican candidates do not face.
This fact is worth considering, as adverse judicial rulings could still seriously damage Trump’s candidacy.
DeSantis will reportedly be in Iowa this weekend for a campaign event hosted by conservative Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who is also up for re-election.
Arizona: Karrin Taylor Robson (R), the establishment Republican who lost the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary to Kari Lake, will not run for Senate.
Lake could still get into this race, but the only major Republican to enter so far is Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R).
Pennsylvania: To the relief of Republicans in the state, Doug Mastriano (R) has decided not to run for Senate. This leaves David McCormick (R), still unannounced, as the early frontrunner for the nomination to face Sen. Bob Casey (D).
Texas: a new poll from the University of Texas at Tyler shows incumbent Ted Cruz (R) leading Rep. Colin Allred (D), 42% to 37%. Although he leads, this is very bad news for Cruz, as a result in the low 40s for any incumbent is considered extremely weak. Cruz barely squeaked by to victory in 2018, 51% to 48%, against former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D).
One of Cruz’s weaknesses in that race was his lack of support among Soth Texas Hispanics, who are mostly of Mexican ancestry whereas he is Cuban. That dynamic could change in 2024, given the gradual shift of Texas Hispanic voters to the Republican Party, but it will be a hard-earned transformation if Cruz is able to make it happen.
Cruz lost a lot of popularity during his 2016 presidential run. Since then, he also has been and will be savagely attacked for leaving the state for a trip to Mexico with his family during the ice storms that hit the state in February 2021.
Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has been impeached, with possibly very big long-term ramifications for Texas politics. The story even has a presidential angle.
Texas State House of Representatives has just overwhelmingly imipeached Paxton by a lopsided, bipartisan 121-23 vote. Paxton, who has faced a bevy of ethics charges since he was first elected, insists this is just political persecution. He will face a trial in the state Senate in late August. He is accused of taking bribes, retaliating against whistleblowers, and securing multiple personal gifts from a donor, worth tens of thousands of dollars, plus a job for his alleged mistress.
The reason this story has nationwide importance is that, in the interim and possible for the long run, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will have a chance to elevate someone else to his position, which might have consequences for the state’s politics going forward. One possibility, perhaps not the most popular, would be to tap George P. Bush, whom Paxton soundly defeated in the 2022 party primary runoff, even though he had won only a 43% plurality in the first round.
Donald Trump also inserted himself into this battle, attempting to save Paxton, a political ally. He is currently attacking Abbott for not speaking up in Paxton’s defense. This means that Trump has given himself some skin in the game if Paxton is indeed removed from office.