October 11, 2017

A Day of Reckoning Looms

Charles Merin

This past weekend’s war of words between the President and Senator Corker elevated ongoing governance challenges for the majority party to a new and potentially game-changing level. Comments by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about his party’s President that the latter needed adult day care and was guilty of drawing us closer to World War III took my breath away. I found it astounding that a respected Senate Republican had the courage to speak them. I’d like to explore what this episode may mean for those of us engaged in the advocacy business.

Here are some inflection points worth noting:

Indulge me a crystal ball moment. Let’s think about tax reform’s next steps. Let’s assume that the House passes a comprehensive tax reform bill on a party line vote. Let’s ignore the details for the moment but presume that the legislation will be the most conservative construct of credible tax policy. The Senate undertakes its own tax debate, and either produces a bipartisan product or attempts to pass something with Republican votes only. Even if they succeed in getting fifty Republican votes for something, their provisions are likely to be more “moderate” in application. One friend recently likened a conference committee convened to reconcile the two bills to the mating of an elephant and a fly: difficult, painful, but hypothetically possible. At what point, if any, will Freedom Caucus members find the inevitable conference committee accommodations to be unacceptable? At what point does the President’s on-again, off-again determination to enact a fifteen percent corporate rate or any other provision of particular importance to him, undo any deal? No one knows with certainty how tax reform will play out, but the scenario I have suggested is widely viewed as plausible. Republicans whom I respect tell me that if tax reform craters with no new legislation enacted into law, many frustrated Republican incumbents may pack it in.

Here’s why I bring all of this up: in my opinion, two defining developments will meaningfully affect the business of lobbying and how we pursue our parochial agendas:

If I’m correct in my assumptions, then here are some of the challenges you will need to ponder:

Two final thoughts. The late Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia was once asked, “How many Presidents have you served under?”. “None”, was his reply, “I have served with Presidents, not under them”. It bears repeating that the Founding Fathers envisioned three separate and coequal branches of government, each of which was to express its loyalties to the American people and not any individual. I happen to be Jewish and a Democrat. Being such has never dissuaded me from calling out the poor behavior of Bernie Madoff or Bill Clinton. Inappropriate behavior – remarks that damage the fabric of who we are as people or exacerbates relationships amongst us, especially when it comes from elected officials – should find no quarter from anyone. A long dead American poet by the name of Minot Judson Savage once authored a stanza of a poem that I’ve never forgotten:

“There comes an hour of sadness,

With the setting of our sun,

When we regret not the sins committed,

But the things we have not done.”

The challenges confronting America are complex and urgent, and will require bipartisan solutions. I offer-up these insights to galvanize your thinking about difficult decisions which lie ahead.


Chuck Merin

Chuck, Prime Policy Group’s executive Vice President, possesses more than 45 years of Washington experience, beginning with service as a congressional staffer. He has established himself as the premier lobbyist for service and hospitality industry interests in Washington. He is an expert in building legislative coalitions and helping clients forge effective, long-term relationships on Capitol Hill. Chuck is perhaps best known for his close affiliation with the Blue Dog Coalition, an alliance of more than two dozen pro-business, conservative House Democrats whose votes are much coveted.