The Obama White House and congressional Republican leaders have a tentative budget deal, which is already drawing fierce fire from GOP lawmakers in both chambers. It’s safe bet that we’ll quickly see a “hope yes, vote no” dynamic emerge, in which Republicans want the bipartisan agreement to pass, even if they don’t want to alienate right-wing activists by voting for it.
There are, however, some sweeteners added to the package. Take the “Freedom Foyer,” for example.
The text of the full, 144-page package is online here, but note literally the very last provision of the legislation. On the bottom of page 144, the budget agreement would designate the “small House rotunda” on the first floor of the Capitol to serve as a “Freedom Foyer.”
I’m not making this up.
In fact, reader D.R. emailed this morning to note the official 15-page summary of the package, which concludes with the header, “Sec. 1201. Designating Small House Rotunda as ‘Freedom Foyer.’” It explains, with some specificity:
This section designates the first floor area of the House of Representatives wing of the U.S. Capitol known as the small House rotunda as “Freedom Foyer.” Busts of Winston Churchill, Lajos Kossuth, and Vaclav Havel are on display in the Freedom Foyer.
Really? Twelve years after Freedom Fries, we’re now embracing a Freedom Foyer?
This may seem silly, because, well, it is a little silly. But in far-right circles, these busts of foreign leaders are surprisingly important. In President Obama’s first term, the White House returned a Churchill bust that had been loaned to the U.S. by British officials, and Republicans like Ted Cruz still whine incessantly about this, several years later.
With this in mind, the creation of a “Freedom Foyer” at the Capitol, complete with a Churchill bust, would presumably make the GOP base very happy.
Happy enough for congressional Republicans to support a bipartisan budget deal en masse? No, probably not. But the fact that GOP leaders made sure this was part of the deal – I’m assuming this idea was not inserted at President Obama’s behest – says something interesting about the party’s priorities in 2015.