What GOP Congress Should (and Shouldn’t) Do in 2015
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell was published November 13, 2014 on Fox News online.
The 2014 midterm election euphoria continues for Republicans this week with Dan Sullivan’s win Wednesday in Alaska, giving the party eight Senate seat pick-ups with potentially a ninth in Louisiana next month. But the GOP can’t bask in these victories, it’s time to get to work. Here’s what the new majority should do, and not do.
Top priority is repealing ObamaCare. Yes President Obama will veto it and thus elicit even more public opposition than was displayed in the election that actually gave the GOP a “repeal majority.” They can pass repeal bills through the same procedure Democrats used to make ObamaCare a reality: reconciliation, in which they only need a simple majority of 51 votes.
Once Obama vetoes the repeal bill the Republicans can go about repealing pieces of it, an incremental approach that will likely garner a fair number of Democratic votes including repeal of the employer mandate, the 30-hour work week, the Medicare payment board and the medical device tax.
Even if Obama vetoes every single ObamaCare repeal measure, that will only upset the public more as they deal with higher costs for less care.
Another top priority for the new Congress should be border security: the public was infuriated this past summer as illegal immigrants poured across our southern border.
President Obama maintains he will carry out his threat to grant amnesty to millions of more illegals before the end of the year and the GOP must use every avenue available to stop it —- and do so as publicly as possible so the American people know the Republicans —- not Obama —- are on their side.
With the new majority there should now be no more impediments to the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline which will create upwards of 20,000 new jobs in America’s heartland and bring us closer to energy independence. If Obama still wants to stand in the way of more jobs and less expensive energy, his party will suffer even more public indignation.
Republicans have said they’d also like to return to regular order and do a real budget —- after years of funding America’s priorities through haphazard “continuing resolutions” that last for one month here, four months there.
This would also allow the party to follow through on its campaign promises to make true spending cuts that draw down the national debt. At almost $18 trillion, every American citizen —- whether they work or pay taxes or not —- owes over $56,000 in national debt.
Along those lines, another priority for the new Congress should be addressing the housing market, given that’s where all the trouble started six years ago.
It’s critical Congress help restore trust in the housing market and take steps to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a responsible manner that strengthens the housing sector, spurs sustainable investment and protects property rights.
A top social issue priority for the new majority should be passage of the 20-week abortion ban, versions of which have passed in several states and upon which GOP candidates campaigned during the election. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said back during the summer he would push for this if the Republicans won a majority and conservatives anticipate he will follow through.
A couple of cautionary notes for Republicans as well. There has been a great deal of speculation that Republicans may want to move quickly on a patent reform bill in order to show common ground with the White House. Republicans should tread very carefully in rushing into any legislation that overhauls our entire patent system —- which is a critical part of our constitutional protection of property rights.
After failed big government overhauls like ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, the last thing we need is another “Washington fix”of a key component of our economy.
Republicans need to stand firm in defending our property rights and say no to another Washington takeover, this time of the innovation industry. This would severely weaken patents and be a step backward for American exceptionalism that would model poor patent protection like that of China or India.
One other course that would be a mistake for the new Senate would be to bring back the filibuster, which would amount to the GOP unilaterally disarming in the battle over the courts. After Harry Reid’s invocation of the nuclear option and using simple majority votes to pack federal courts with Obama’s nominees, it makes no sense whatsoever for Republicans to limit a future GOP president by bringing back the filibuster only to see Democrats go nuclear again the next time they gain control of the chamber.
A sober, realistic GOP Senate conference cannot trust the Democrats again on this issue, given the precedent. Therefore, Republican Senators should protect future GOP presidents in their efforts to fill the nation’s courts with judges who fairly apply the law instead of imposing someone’s political agenda from the bench.
The new majority should embrace these opportunities, they were elected because President Obama and the Democrats either wouldn’t lead or had the wrong answers.