Opinion: Election failures have consequences too

As GOP leaders in Congress struggled to sell a compromise debt limit deal on Capitol Hill this week, it wasn’t hard to think about how Republicans might have laid the groundwork for a big victory on spending.

And all signs point back to Georgia.

Think about it this way — what if Republicans didn’t blow three U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia in 2021 and 2022? The GOP might have had a lot more leverage to force spending cuts in Congress in recent weeks.

But elections have consequences. And for a variety of reasons — some related to former President Donald Trump, the GOP controls only the U.S. House, and that’s not enough power to force major spending changes by Congress.

“I do think the national debt is too high,” said U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton. “I don’t think you’re going to fix it all in one piece of legislation.”

Emerging from a late-night U.S. Capitol meeting with fellow Republicans this week, Scott praised the work of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who negotiated what’s basically a two-year budget freeze for Uncle Sam — even though that fell far short of what most Republicans in Congress wanted.

“No conservative can justify supporting this insanity,” thundered U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens. “I didn’t come to Washington to maintain the Swamp’s status quo.”

Clyde’s lines sound good to his backers, but short of forcing the U.S. into a default — or creating a government shutdown later this year — Republicans just don’t have enough clout right now.

“We control only one-half of one-third of the federal government,” U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson acknowledged. But he still wanted deep cuts.

“I expected us to hold the line more,” the freshmen Republican said in opposing the debt limit deal.

It’s not like the GOP has no options left. House Republicans certainly can exert the power of the purse, and vote for cuts in a variety of government funding bills later this year.

“Upcoming Appropriations bills is where we can make real changes in what Congress funds and does not fund,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome.

Greene could even use those funding debates to sell more of her campaign merchandise, featuring $30 ‘DEFUND THE FBI’ hats and t-shirts.

And even Greene knows that Republicans can’t implement their agenda during a time of divided government.

“I am truly excited at the thought of what we can accomplish if Americans give us full control with the White House, House, and Senate,” she said.

Elections do have consequences — and in this case, Republicans must look back at Georgia and think — ‘what if.’

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com