When it comes to electing someone to the U.S. Senate, often called the world’s greatest deliberative body, voters rarely have an opportunity to “try it before you buy it.”
Alabamians, however, suddenly find ourselves with an appointed senator who is considering a bill that could easily indicate how he’d perform if elected to a full term.
Sen. Luther Strange has only been in office a few short months and while his brief tenure hasn’t produced many substantive votes to measure, he has managed to avoid the ire of the conservative movement’s philosophical watchdogs. But that could dramatically change based upon how Strange votes on that phony repeal of Obamacare that’s currently before these Senate.
Make no mistake. It’s not the promised repeal-and-replace bill that conservatives have been promised over and over during recent years. Even the architect of Obamacare – the guy who said Democrats had to fool the American people in order to get it passed – said it’s not a repeal at all. In many ways, it’s worse. While there are elements of tax cuts in the bill, the defining element of conservatism – limited government – is nowhere to be found, and it actually further enshrines the federal government’s role in your healthcare decisions.
How Strange decides to vote on this mess will tell us everything we need to know about what kind of a senator he’ll be if elected to a full six-year term: a fighter for conservatism or a pawn of the establishment.
Simply said, if Strange votes in favor of the bill largely as-is, conservatives should vote for another candidate in the upcoming Republican Primary for his Senate seat. If he votes no, then conservatives should feel obliged to seriously consider his candidacy.
A ‘yes’ vote would indicate that Strange would be a reliable vote for the establishment and a team player who Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could count upon. But we have dozens of Republicans like that up there already, and their go-along-to-get-along style has produced an overgrown and intrusive federal government, a crippling national debt, and budget deficits for as far as the eye can see.
Why would we need another one of those guys? We’re all full on spineless lackeys, thank you very much.
On the other hand, a ‘no’ vote would indicate that Strange would be wise enough to recognize a bad bill when he sees it and strong enough to oppose the enormous pressure that would be brought to bear from leadership for his vote. Such a move would also show that Strange would be committed to advancing conservatism rather than just passing bills for the sake of showing activity.
We have so few of those guys in the Senate, and we could certainly use one more.
We must beware of how the Senate operates, however. A parade of showboat votes will surely be rolled out, allowing senators plausible cover to conceal that final vote, whatever it may be. So pay more attention to what reliable conservative voices say about the bill rather than news releases and campaign commercials.
Meanwhile, we desperately need people in our Capitol who’ll force leadership to return to the normal order of legislation – holding public hearings, thoroughly debating provisions, scheduling several subcommittee and committee votes to draft a good bill – rather than the secretive, all-or-nothing cycle we’ve been subjected to in recent years. How Strange votes will also indicate what legislative process he’ll likely support – transparency or continued secrecy.
This is a crucial moment for voters and the future of our Congressional delegation because Alabama, like most states, rarely throws off a senator once elected. Sen. Richard Shelby has been in there since 1986 – more than three decades. Attorney General Jeff Sessions held the seat that Strange occupies for more than two-decades, the senator before him, Howell Heflin, held it 18-years, and the one before that, John Sparkman, was in office for 33-years.
So, there have only been four men in that seat since Elvis Presley was 11-years old and still learning how to strum a six-string. We not only rarely get to try it before we buy it, we hardly ever take it back once purchased.
Which is why conservatives need to watch Big Luther’s big vote very, very closely.