Since the 2010 midterm elections, conservatives have looked to Speaker Boehner and House Republicans to provide a vanguard against Obama’s radical agenda. It has been a disheartening experience. In fairness to House Republicans, there is little one legislative chamber can do to affect the direction of the federal government. The tools they do have, however, they have often declined to use. Paul’s filibuster of the Brennan nomination on Wednesday, however, showed the emergence of a new opposition to Obama. Based in the Senate, it is providing the American public a stark contrast to Obama’s ever-expanding government.
Paul’s filibuster was not based on a traditional partisan issue. Its goal was simply to clarify that the President did not have the authority to assassinate American citizens, on domestic soil, who are suspected of cooperating with terrorists. Such clarity ought not require a 13 hour filibuster. The event, however, exposed the public to a reasoned articulation of conservative, constitutional principles. It was a brilliant counter-point to Obama’s doctrine of expanding government power in every direction.
On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in announcing his opposition to any continuing resolution funding the government that didn’t also defund ObamaCare. House Republicans have long since given up this fight, passing a continuing resolution this week that continues to fund ObamaCare’s expansion. Sixteen House Republicans bucked their leadership and opposed the move, but enough Democrats joined Republicans to pass the measure.
With this week’s moves, the center of political gravity has shifted to an emerging band of leaders in the Senate. Sens. Paul, Rubio, and Cruz are providing the nucleus of a new and robust conservative opposition to the Obama Administration. They will likely lose most of their battles. Unlike House Republicans, however, they understand that their primary responsibility is to articulate to the American public an alternative vision for the country. It requires one to pick an occasional battle and present one’s case to the public.
House Republicans are obsessive about “governing,” even though they lack the levers of power to do so. They would rather put off an ideological fight on principle in order to pass legislation. This may make sense tactically, but strategically it’s a losing bet. Worse, it denies the American public a clear choice. A party ought to articulate why it should be entrusted with legislative power.
Sens. Paul, Rubio and Cruz understand this. They are providing the tip of the spear ahead of the 2014 midterms. Based on initial responses to Paul’s filibuster this week, they will have an army behind them.