What do Republicans believe on state aid?
Yesterday, I asked Reihan Salam to give some evidence for his claim that there is “a broad consensus" among conservatives and "large numbers of Republican lawmakers" that Congress should pass further state and local aid measures. According to Reihan, the only holdup was that Republicans wanted the aid to be contingent on states developing fiscally sound long-term budgets. As soon as Democrats endorsed that, it would be all systems go.
But when asked to name some legislation, Reihan didn't come up with much. "That is the basic idea behind Sen. Scott Brown’s Fiscally Responsible Relief for Our States Act," Reihan said. But Brown's proposal -- a proposal from one of the most moderate Republicans who is representing one of the most liberal states in the union -- doesn't have any co-sponsors, so it's hard to see how it represents a consensus.
Reihan, to his credit, predicted this point. "Sen. McConnell did not formally endorse the Brown proposal," he wrote. "But I nevertheless think it is appropriate to characterize something like the Sen. Brown’s Fiscally Responsible Relief for Our States Act as 'the Republican party line,' not least because the Republican party has a large presence in state legislatures." I've read that a couple of times, and I have no idea how the presence of Republicans in state legislatures makes Brown's bill the party line of congressional Republicans. One has nothing to do with the other. If congressional Republicans wanted to make Brown's bill the party line, they would've done so. That they haven't means, quite simply, that it's not the party line.
Moreover, making aid conditional on budget reform is not the basic idea behind Brown's bill. Just ask Brown:
The basic idea behind Brown's bill is that state aid should be funded using preexisting stimulus dollars. That's what he talks about in the video. He doesn't say anything about conditions. And to double-check, I read the bill. Still nothing.
It's possible I'm missing something in the legislative language, but from what I can see, Brown's bill doesn't make aid conditional on state reforms, and it doesn't have Republican co-sponsors. It provides no evidence for the contention that Republicans would happily partner with Democrats on state aid, if only Democrats would embrace more stringent conditions.
Reihan concludes his post by saying that "Republicans in the minority have been gun-shy about uniting around detailed legislative alternatives to legislation advanced by the majority. This reflects structural dynamics that Ezra has described very effectively on his blog." Agreed. And the structural dynamic it reflects is that Republicans want to deny Democrats accomplishments in the run-up to the election. That is the broad consensus among congressional Republicans, and it's something conservative intellectuals need to grapple with more straightforwardly.