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POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Question: Do Senate Republicans need new leadership?

By: Jake viano and JOE WEBB
November 14, 2017 Updated: November 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm
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Jake Viano

The short answer: No!

Now before you jump up and start screaming "hypocrite," I'd like to explain.

As you may have read two months ago, the Denver GOP, like other county parties, unanimously passed a resolution calling on Republicans in D.C. to replace their leadership. At the time I, like others, adamantly supported this idea. It was well-founded based on the evidence we had.

You see, even though we are county party chairmen, we don't have magic crystal balls that provide unfettered access to what is happening in D.C. Sure, we know some staffers and congressmen, but we assume that by drinking from the fire hose of media, we are getting nearly all the info we need to make informed decisions.

I was nearly unquestioning of my position until recently. That was when I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a closed-door session. During that meeting, a fellow donor expressed the same angst and frustration that many of you share. "We sent a majority of Republicans to D.C. and ya'll still can't seem to get a darned thing done! Tell me why I should continue to support the RNC." Those were his bluntly shaped words directed at the chairwoman. I sat with bated breath.

She responded in the predictably unflappable manner expected from a national chairwoman, thus changing my whole view on the Senate. She began by quoting our president. "You could put 52 Republicans in a room and offer each $10,000,000.00. Three of them will always say no!"

She went on to explain that in her travels through Washington, she sees the deals and leverage that move bills. She explained that not even Lindsey Graham could convince his longtime "pal" John McCain to get on board with many Republican-sponsored bills. In a rather surprising plot twist, she explained that she sees Mitch McConnell on a regular basis and has nothing but praise for the job he's doing. When asked if she thinks he needs to be replaced, she expressed no hesitation in saying "no."

Put simply, one man cannot move mountains, and these three Republican senators are intractable mountains. She talked about how many of us perceive the majority in a rather abstract way; we have 52, thus we should be able to pass bills handily. To sum up her words, many think we won the war last November. We did not. We won a major battle, but not the war. She went on to encourage us to stay in the fight until after the 2018 cycle. If we can make a net gain of at least three senators and hold our majority in the House, we'll be golden.

This is my battle cry to my fellow Republicans. Stay in the fight. Continue to help your local GOP. Continue to help your favorite Republican candidates. Do not give up. Do not go quietly into the night. Fight! Fight! Fight!

With the House clearing a legislative backlog at an expeditious rate and with a president that will sign Republican-sponsored legislation, we can and will fix the errors of the previous administration, pushing our great nation ever farther ahead.

Joe Webb

If you want to think of a leader with no accountability, there is no better example than an absolute monarch. In Europe, the divine right of kings provided a theory which justified this type of rule. Fortunately, with a few exceptions, absolute monarchies are almost extinct worldwide. Constitutional republics like our form of government in the United States are more common.

We have a government of laws in this country, not of men. While it may be held in a low regard, it is only the U.S. Congress that can legislate - not the president or the federal judiciary. To accomplish their work more effectively, legislators elect leaders to move their agendas along. The bills that ultimately become law when signed by the executive need first to pass through their committees and Congress, and effective leaders and whips are invaluable to that process.

It is that passage or lack of passage that determines whether a leader or whip in the Senate is effective. Lyndon Johnson was the most effective Senate majority leader ever. Those skills were utilized early in his presidency to help pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which would have stalled otherwise. America could use a Lyndon Johnson-like figure today to help with the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

The 2016 election, just like the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections before it, was fought by Republicans promising repeal of Obamacare. We now have a Republican president, a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but no repeal. We do not even have a repeal and replace. The problem, as the nation saw last July, is that a few recalcitrant Republicans in the Senate failed to vote in favor of various repeal bills. Obviously, most of the blame for the failure to repeal must and should lie squarely on their shoulders.

How much of that failure is the fault of leadership? Some. But to what degree remains a matter of judgment. To compare and contrast, Lyndon Johnson would have applied whatever sort of pressure was necessary to gain the votes of those Republicans. Unlike Mitch McConnell, he would have gotten repeal completed and signed by the president.

Accountability matters because the failure to repeal Obamacare has real-world consequences. Approximately 40 percent of Coloradans have high-deductible, high-premium medical insurance, effectively no medical insurance. Because of McConnell's failure to repeal and replace, that remains the status quo today. Without repeal by the end of 2018, I fear Republicans will face an electoral disaster. Many candidates in Jefferson County have reported to me that ordinary voters are angry at the failure of repeal.

Failure demands accountability, and that is why McConnell needs to be replaced as majority leader of the U.S. Senate. He did not get the job done. Voters will hold us accountable if we continue failing to repeal.

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Jake Viano is the chairman of the Denver County Republican Party. Joe Webb is the chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. Both county parties have passed resolutions calling on Congressional Republicans to elect new leadership if they fail to repeal the Affordable Care Act by November 1.

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