Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has become a punching bag in some conservative circles lately. Fox News host Sean Hannity recently called for him to be replaced as the GOP's leader in the U.S. Senate. The Senate Conservative Fund then piled on with a blast email calling for McConnell's ouster.
These attacks are misguided. McConnell, arguably more than anyone else, is responsible for ensuring that Republicans in Congress have remained largely in lockstep opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and as minority leader in 2009, he also kept them in line against President Obama's tax-and-spend stimulus package (no small feat at a time when the then-new president was highly popular and had many goodies to offer individual congressional Republicans).
Even though the GOP at best had control of only half of one of the three branches of government for most of the Obama administration, the party managed to hold growth in federal spending flat despite the best efforts of a White House intent on much higher levels of spending. McConnell's leadership even forced Obama to make 90% of the George W. Bush tax cuts permanent.
The ire directed toward McConnell is silly. Taxpayers should save their anger for the three Republican senators who refused to end Obamacare and the 20 tax increases included in the law: John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
Better yet, there is another big fat target for taxpayers who wish to go after Republicans behaving badly: the California Legislature.
Democrats so dominate the California Legislature that they could've extended the state's carbon-emissions cap-and-trade legislation on a 2/3 supermajority vote without any Republican help. But some Democrats were not ready to put their fingerprints on sinking the state's economy, so Gov. Jerry Brown needed to sucker some Republicans into voting to extend the program's massive tax and regulatory burdens.
In other words, had seven Republican Assembly members and one Republican state senator not defected, the GOP potentially could have stopped Brown's cap-and-trade extension. Sadly, Republican Assembly Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) delivered the GOP votes to continue this costly regime for another decade.
So long as Mayes remains the GOP's leader in the Assembly, it's hard to see why any California voters, including Republicans, would be motivated to elect more GOP politicians to the state Legislature. Why vote for Republicans if their leadership is only going to assist Democrats in making the state's tax burden and regulatory climate — already among the most onerous in the nation — even worse?
Thanks to Mayes' lack of wisdom, during the 2018 election cycle, Republicans will also have a tough time criticizing the $6-billion gas tax increase approved by Democrats in April. After all, by acceding to the cap-and-trade extension, the GOP helped pass what will be an even greater gas tax hike down the road. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, the cap-and-trade extension could increase gas prices by an estimated 63 cents per gallon in 2021, rising to 73 cents per gallon in 2031. That is more than three times greater than the 19-cent-per-gallon April increase.
Democrats couldn't enact a national cap-and-trade law when Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) was House speaker, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was Senate majority leader and Barack Obama was president because congressional Republicans remained unified in opposition to this economically disastrous policy. But too many California Republicans, under the direction of Mayes, made it clear they care more about Jerry Brown's legacy than about Golden State taxpayers. And all for a program that imposes enormous economic pain for next to no environmental gain — cap-and-trade in California can't lower global temperatures.
The good news for Mayes is that he'll probably end up receiving the JFK Profile in Courage Award, an award Democrats like to hand out to traitorous Republicans. (Remember former Assemblyman Mike Villines of Clovis and state Sen. Dave Cogdill of Modesto? They got the award for voting for tax increases during the state's 2009 budget crisis.) Unfortunately, Mayes' treachery means there is no good news for California taxpayers.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Patrick M. Gleason is the organization's director of state affairs.
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