Softballs from National Review Online


Over at National Review Online, Robert Costa has published a softball interview with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The interview delves into the job of the Majority Whip, which is very simple: Get votes for bills leadership wants to pass.

With respect to both Costa and Whip McCarthy, the interview all but totally ignored what has been a defining issue for the GOP-controlled House since 2011: The balance (or, as many fiscal conservatives see it, the imbalance) between principle and strategy. Consider this section of the interview:

The recent farm-bill drama was a window into McCarthy’s method — and a sign that on immigration, he may be the player capable of ushering legislation through the lower chamber. McCarthy wasn’t able to prevent a floor fiasco — the farm bill failed to pass on its initial vote. But at the eleventh hour, he was able to quietly corral conservatives around a revised farm bill and pass it with a slim majority. For a raucous Republican conference, it was a fleeting moment of cohesion; for McCarthy, it was reminder that patience and pacing are critical to his success.

In an interview, McCarthy recalls how he spent days huddling with on-the-fence Republicans in his first-floor Capitol office, going over their concerns and trying to reach a consensus. Instead of needling them for breaking with the leadership on the first vote, he wooed them with camaraderie. There were meetings with the old bulls and morning bike rides with the younger exercise enthusiasts — anything to establish mutual trust. “It was tough,” he says. “We had to find a way to stay together, not just for the farm bill, but to keep us together ahead of immigration and the debt ceiling.”

National Review, along its online presence, has maintained a position as one of the flagship publications in the conservative movement for decades. Yet in this interview, Costa praises Whip McCarthy’s leadership in getting votes without once looking at whether those votes are for worthwhile bills. Consider the farm bill Costa praises the Whip for squeaking through the House:

    • It makes farm subsidies permanent, rather than open to change or cuts every five years.
    • The bill contained the same bloated spending level the House shot down in June.
    • The market-distorting powers of farm subsidies are well-established, which should give pause to anyone in the House who supports free markets.

On the issue of immigration, many of the House’s fiscal conservatives recognize that no bill should pass the House because of the Senate’s significant threat of amnesty. Nowhere is this referenced in the interview, throughout which Costa promoted the idea of passage of an immigration bill for its own sake. Thus, National Review Online praises the Whip because he “sounds reassuring” in his ability to get votes for an immigration bill, while ignoring what he considers legislation worth getting votes for.

One of the major problems facing America is the concept that passing legislation for its own sake benefits America. This is something the Tea Party has stood against since its foundation, but neither Costa nor Whip McCarthy appears to see the folly in this disastrous Beltway tradition.