The next fight in the GOP civil war—McConnell likely to forego trying cuts to safety net programs

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

Sen. Doug Jones’s (D-AL) arrival in the Senate comes just in time, in a number of ways. First, it’s scared an awful lot of Republicans about their prospects in 2018. Second, it means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has an extremely thin majority, made more so by the ongoing illnesses of Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Thad Cochran (R-MS). With just 51 votes on a good day (provided McCain can return to the Senate) and a handful of senators who are eyeing November with trepidation, McConnell is at least considering curtailing his ambitions.

He might skip trying to pass a budget this year, which means he also gives up on using the budget resolution tactic to ram bills through the Senate with a simple majority vote—the tactic he used successfully on the tax bill and failed with on Trumpcare. Efforts this year would likely be another shot at Trumpcare and full Obamacare repeal, and following House Speaker Paul Ryan’s sociopathic dreams of dismantling Medicare and Medicaid.

White House and Hill GOP leaders discussed the possibility of forgoing the painful budget process during last weekend’s Camp David legislative summit, according to four sources familiar with the talks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that he cannot pass controversial deficit-reduction legislation using powerful budget procedures with his new 51-vote majority—and wasn’t even sure he could find the votes for a fiscal blueprint in the first place. […]

That means no entitlement reform or welfare overhaul in 2018, a key priority for fiscal conservatives eager to shrink the now $20 trillion federal debt. Instead, President Donald Trump wants to focus on enacting a massive infrastructure package with help from Democrats. And conservatives are not happy about it. […]

Congressional leaders are knee-deep in bipartisan spending negotiations that are shaping up to be a nightmare for conservatives, potentially raising federal spending by more than $200 billion over two years, with few—if any—ways to pay for it. In the same month, Congress also plans to send Trump an $80 billion-plus disaster relief package, the largest of its kind, with no offsets. And just this week, House Republicans announced a plan to debate a return of earmarks, which conservatives have called the “gateway drug” to spending.