If the $1.3. trillion omnibus spending bill teaches us anything, it’s that bipartisanship is expensive and wildly overrated. The enduring myth of American politics is that bipartisan bills are a legislative Holy Grail that brave Knights of the RINO Table like Sir Marco of Florida must zealously Crusade after as a matter of honor. But, in reality, bipartisanship usually looks more like a doomed marriage between two fiscally irresponsible people: Should we buy a new car or put in a new swimming pool? Both! Should we send the kids to college or first-class our way through Europe for the summer? Both! Should we max out all our credit cards or put a third mortgage on the house? Both!
Then, it’s back-slaps all around for being legendary compromisers when nothing was actually compromised except financial security. “Bipartisanship” has become code for “everybody gets to wet their beak in the taxpayer pond.”
That’s why it would have been so satisfying to see President Trump use his Constitutional Trump card to veto the spending bill. Conservatives on Twitter were begging President Trump to do it after he flirted with the idea in a Friday morning tweet that read: “I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.”
Conservative radio host Mark Levin tweeted, “VETO the massive spending and borrowing bill, Mr. President!”
In the end, President Trump rebuked Congress but signed the bill, letting all the air out of Conservative Twitter. Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted that it was a “missed opportunity” and Ann Coulter tweeted to Mr. Trump, “You’ll be impeached.”
But, as terrible as the bill was, Mr. Trump didn’t miss an opportunity – he sidestepped a political landmine. There’s an excellent chance his veto would have been overridden by 2/3 supermajorities in both Houses of Congress.
Democrats would have jumped at the chance to rebuke a Trump veto. Even the Democrats who voted against the bill to begin with would have snatched up that opportunity to #resist. They’d have framed it as an issue of governing principle. They’d have made statements like, “I didn’t like the bill personally, but we cannot allow President Trump to unilaterally reject bipartisanship.”
For Republicans, overriding the veto would have been the path of least resistance. They’re on their way home from D.C. They’re kicked back in their first-class seats with a warm towel and a mimosa having no expectation that the President was even considering a veto. It would have been a blindside veto and sustaining it would have put them in a position where the government would shut down at midnight unless they went back, added DACA to the negotiations, cut spending on Democratic priorities and then somehow magically got the Democratic votes they needed to satisfy rule 22’s 3/5 cloture requirement. The Democrats got annihilated in the court of public opinion when they shut down the government over DACA. For Trump to turn around and do the same would have been begging for rebuke.
Remember all those checks and balances from your high school Civics class? Sure the President can veto a bill passed by Congress, but then Congress can veto the veto. What they don’t teach in that civics class are the implications of a veto override.
If Trump had been overridden the very first time he ever exercised the veto power, it would have sent the message that Congress has the final say—that Congress is in charge, and the president, who is being investigated by a special council, is up to his ears in sex scandals being pushed by the mainstream media, and whose approval rating hovers around 40 percent, is a lame-duck rubber stamp.
It would have been a disastrous rebuke of President Trump, and it would have dealt a severe blow to his already-overdrawn account of political capital. Throughout American history, the average Presidential success rate when exercising the veto is about 88 percent. Only around 20 times has a president had a veto overridden when his party controlled both houses of Congress. That hasn’t happened to any president since it happened to one-term-disaster Jimmy Carter 38 years ago.
Only two presidents in American history have had their very first veto overridden, and only one president in American history has had his very first veto overridden when his party controlled both House of Congress. That was Herbert Hoover. And joining a Presidential-list club whose only member is Herbert Hoover should be avoided at all costs. CNN and MSNBC would be wall to wall Hoover chyrons for a week.
Trump made a greater impact by verbally rebuking Congress, and he showed he’s capable of taking the pragmatic road over the dramatic one.
Eddie Zipperer is a political science professor at Georgia Military College.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.