By Paul Bremmer
Despite resounding Republican victories in statehouses, governor’s offices, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, the GOP-controlled House voted 219-206 Thursday to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill that many conservatives abhor because it funds Obamacare and the president’s executive actions granting amnesty to illegal aliens.
To a veteran conservative political activist it amounts to a monumental betrayal.
“I don’t know any other way to say it than that they lied to the American voters,” said fundraising pioneer Richard Viguerie.
A conservative leader for more than 50 years, he often is called the movement’s “funding father” because of his innovative work with direct mail fundraising.
“The first impression they made was to betray the voters, betray their landslide victory and surrender,” Viguerie said. “They just absolutely surrendered to an exceedingly unpopular president; so, shame on them.”
Viguerie, author of the recently published “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It,” said the GOP has marked itself as the other party of big government. He thinks it will now be difficult for Republican leaders to govern, even with their House and Senate majorities, over the next two years.
And he says the GOP will pay a price. He expects a flurry of conservative primary challengers in 2016.
“I think you’re going to see the highest percent of Republican members of Congress challenged in primaries that we’ve ever seen in the history of America,” he said.
The spending bill is dubbed a “CRomnibus” because it combines a typical omnibus spending bill with a continuing resolution, or CR. The bill will fund most of the government through the coming year, but it will only fund the Department of Homeland Security through February.
The CR apparently was intended to give Republicans another chance to stop Obama’s executive amnesty two months from now.
However, Viguerie believes GOP leadership included the provision to appease the conservative base.
“That’s probably just a sop thrown to the conservatives,” he said. “It’s clear that the Republican leaders … want amnesty to go away. They want to give amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens and get that off of their desk.”
The CRomnibus bill appeared to be in danger of failing after it barely passed a procedural vote Thursday afternoon. But the Obama White House joined Speaker John Boehner in rallying support. Under pressure from the White House, 57 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, which was more than enough to counteract the 67 Republicans who voted against it.
Viguerie is unmoved by those who call the bill a compromise. He thinks it is simply a continuation of decades of government growth.
“When Republicans and Democrats talk about compromise in Washington, that’s code for, ‘We’re gonna grow the government, maybe not as much as the Democrats want,'” he said.
Democrats opposed the bill because of planned changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to ease restrictions on banks. That led to the absurdity of liberal Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and conservative Republicans, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann, joining together in opposition to a bill that moderates in both parties supported.
Viguerie expects more of the same in coming years because the ideological left and right are both opposed to crony government.
“We saw last night where the inside party and the outside party got together to feather their own nest, and principled liberals and principled conservatives are becoming aware that this is happening, and are going to come together and oppose this,” Viguerie said.
Ultimately, said Viguerie, a spending bill like this damages the whole country, not just the Republican Party or the conservative movement.
“We’ve seen a massive effort to plunder the treasury of the country,” he said. “Congress last night engaged in legal theft. They took care of themselves and their friends. The GOP and the Democratic National Committee were able to raise a lot more money. Wall Street benefited. Main Street suffered, of course.”
In previous years, according to Viguerie, this “legal theft” went undetected by the vast majority of American people. But now, with talk radio, cable television and an endless array of news websites, more people can become aware of what their government leaders are doing to them.
“The American people are going to understand very clearly in the coming days what’s happened here, and I think this is going to make it exceedingly difficult for the Republican leaders to continue their outrageous betrayal of the American people,” Viguerie said.