Shocked by President Trump's decision to ally with Democrats on the debt ceiling, Republicans have dubbed the Pelosi-Trump-Schumer deal PTSD. An apt description, it could just as easily apply to the congressional GOP conference.
Anxious and irritable with one another, House Republicans are complicating their last chance to pass major legislation before the year ends. And if they stay in their current stupor, there's a good chance they will face the electorate during the 2018 midterms with nothing to show for their majority.
That's probably why House Budget Chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., sounds desperate and exasperated. Time is running out, and now that Trump has decided to work with Democrats, she tells the Washington Examiner Friday, "Republicans really need a conservative win."
Naturally, Black thinks her committee has the answer. Republicans can fix plenty of their problems if they'd just pass her budget, a document she said is more conservative than anything Republicans have come up with "since the late 1990s."
"Our budget would increase military spending — to rebuild our military which we all said we wanted — it cuts mandatory spending, and it clears the way toward tax reform," Black said. "What more could you want?"
If you're a member of the Freedom Caucus, that group of about three dozen House conservatives, you want a lot more.
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and company are currently holding hostage the budget and with it the reconciliation instructions needed for tax reform in the Senate. "To be frank, all we have is that we are for tax reform and that is good," Meadows said. "Until we get some actual details, we're not going to just do a budget like we did with Obamacare and get the same results."
Meadows is worried about getting jammed again. Conservatives remember moving a shell budget earlier in March to clear the way for repealing Obamacare with reconciliation. And look how that turned out, Meadows said, "we passed it only to discover that the plan that came after was a disaster."
What about the most conservative budget since the 1990s, though? Meadows dismissed it as "obsolete" because "it assumes the savings from Obamacare repeal are in place."
Complicating things further was an IJR report that the Freedom Caucus wanted to move tax reform before the budget, a parliamentary difficult and politically impossible scenario that would've required the House and Senate to pass tax reform twice.
"I really don't even understand how he believes that," Black said in disbelief.
And apparently he doesn't actually believe that. Meadows later dismissed the IJR report entirely is either a "misunderstanding … or a mischaracterization."
While that miscommunication was apparently cleared up quickly, it's emblematic of the current situation. And as shell-shocked Republicans talk past one another, Trump sees willing and organized negotiators across the aisle. And unless Meadows and Black can somehow meet halfway, Republican PTSD could just be the beginning.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.