Congress frus­trates many on the right

Deadlock on re­peal­ing Oba­macare sticks in throat of those at Den­ver event

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Brian Ea­son

With Repub­li­cans in charge of both cham­bers of Congress and the pres­i­dency for the first time since 2007, there was sup­posed to be a lot to cel­e­brate this week when two of the na­tion’s pre­mier con­ser­va­tive con­fer­ences met in down­town Den­ver.

In­stead? Speak­ers at the Western Con­ser­va­tive Sum­mit and Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil’s an­nual meet­ing have been say­ing things such as this:

“You would think that some sor­cerer had taken some of those un­em­ployed clowns from the Rin­gling Bros. and put them in the U.S. Se­nate,” said Steve Forbes, pub­lisher of the con­ser­va­tive busi­ness mag­a­zine that shares his name. “It’s un­be­liev­able.”

To be clear, con­ser­va­tives have had plenty to cheer since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s up­set vic­tory over Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in Novem­ber. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has rolled back count­less Obama-era reg­u­la­tions, ap­pointed Neil Gor­such to the Supreme Court and put con­ser­va­tives such as U.S. Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy Devos in charge of key de­part­ments, ush­er­ing in ma­jor shifts in fed­eral pol­icy on a wide range of is­sues.

“Pres­i­dent Trump, I’d give a B-plus,” said Colorado House Mi­nor­ity Leader Pa­trick Neville, R-cas­tle Rock, in an in­ter­view with The Den­ver Post.

But Congress? “I’d give them a D.” The sin­gle big­gest source of con­ser­va­tive angst: Congress’ in­abil­ity to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare. The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives ear­lier this year passed a con­ser­va­tive health care plan, but the Repub­li­can-led Se­nate has re­peat­edly post­poned a vote on a health care mea­sure of its own in the face of re­sis­tance from mod­er­ates and con­ser­va­tives alike.

This — many Repub­li­cans wryly noted last week — af­ter Congress voted dozens of times to re­peal or al­ter the health care law while Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was still in of­fice.

“What makes me the most sick look­ing at Wash­ing­ton, D.C., is that the peo­ple who vot-

ed for a full re­peal of Oba­macare only did it be­cause they know Obama was go­ing to veto it,” said Char­lie Kirk, founder of Turn­ing Point USA, in a Fri­day night speech to the Western Con­ser­va­tives. “They lied to us.”

Oth­ers ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that Congress still hadn’t made progress on bud­get cuts or tax re­form.

Some are go­ing so far as to call for a con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion, say­ing the in­abil­ity of a Gop-led congress to fol­low through on its prom­ises il­lus­trates that the prob­lems con­ser­va­tives have with Wash­ing­ton can’t be fixed with­out dras­tic steps.

“D.C. will never fix it­self,” said Mark Meck­ler, pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for Self-gov­ern­ment.

The Con­ven­tion of States project, led by Meck­ler, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, Rokla., and for­mer Sen. Jim Demint, hopes to amend the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion to im­pose term lim­its on Congress, re­quire bal­anced fed­eral bud­gets and give the states more power rel­a­tive to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

A piece of draft leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced this year at ALEC pro­poses us­ing the ef­fort to re­peal the 17th Amend­ment, which since 1913 has al­lowed vot­ers to elect their U.S. sen­a­tors by pop­u­lar vote. In­stead, sen­a­tors would be cho­sen by the 50 state leg­is­la­tures — an idea that a lib­eral-lean­ing watch­dog group, Cen­ter for Me­dia and Democ­racy, la­beled as an at­tempt to “ger­ry­man­der” the U.S. Se­nate.

The ef­fort is a long­shot, at best. Un­der Ar­ti­cle V of the Con­sti­tu­tion, a twothirds ma­jor­ity — at least 34 of 50 states — would have to pass res­o­lu­tions calling for a con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion. It has hap­pened only one other time: in 1787.

That has left many think­ing of a more tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal rem­edy: vot­ing for, and pos­si­bly do­nat­ing to, some­one else if Repub­li­cans don’t fol­low through with their cam­paign prom­ises.

“The prospect of a po­lit­i­cal hang­ing for Repub­li­cans I think will fo­cus their mind won­der­fully,” Forbes told the ALEC crowd.

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