We gave, on the old site, excellent advice to the Republicans after they recaptured the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections; regrettably, they chose not to follow it . . . which is unsurprising, since the odds that any of the Republican congressmen actually read CSPT are pretty low:
The Republican wins in Congress give them more power, but the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. We’ll be told that the House Republicans will have to compromise, but what they will really have to do is present real, solid alternatives.
The first place they can start is to revamp the entire budget process. Right now, the budget of the United States is passed in twelve omnibus appropriations bills, several of which fund more than one federal department. These bills are just plain huge, and, as a consequence, legislators insert controversial items in with non-controversial ones, in appropriations bills which cover so much that they can’t be rejected. The Republicans should pass appropriations in smaller, tighter bills, bills which can be read and understood and which, if rejected by the Senate or vetoed, won’t shut down whole sections of the government, but which will impact the government in smaller, more narrowly tailored ways.
Along with that, by passing appropriations measures every year, the whole budget process gets stacked up and harder to review. The answer is simple: pass half of the appropriations bills for two-year periods, and then, the next year, pass appropriations bills for the other half of the budget for two-year periods. In that manner, each year the Congress will have to pass appropriations for only half of the government, allowing more time for scrutiny and consideration.
The way we do things now stacks the deck in favor of higher spending: congressmen, Republican and Democrat alike, insert their pet projects, different agencies ask for things they want, special interest groups lobby for things which they think are good, and it all gets pushed into huge bills with far-too-little scrutiny. If the Republicans were to adopt these two simple ideas, they would be well-supported, and really uncontroversial, and the Democrats in the Senate would pretty much have to accept them (for political reasons), but they would reduce the pressure on ever-higher spending.
Another thing that the House Republicans could do, on their own, without any need for the cooperation of the White House or the Senate, is to establish what I’d call the [insert slang term for the sphincter here] budget review. The Republicans need to hire a group of [insert plural slang term for the sphincter here] to go over everything in the budget, people who are hard-hearted enough to look at every little item and ask the simple question — so simple it doesn’t get asked often enough — why do we really need this particular thing, with the emphasis on the word “need.”
The Republicans won yesterday’s election because they promised to fight against the overblown spending of the Democrats and the Obama Administration, and because the public disapprove of the greatly increased spending and deficits. The Republicans did not win due to any particular loyalty to the Republican Party, and if the Republicans in Congress don’t actually deliver what the voters want them to deliver, the odds are that their time in the majority will be short-lived.
The Republicans must also sit down and figure out how to prioritize, based on what they can and cannot do with the power they have. While most voters disapprove of ObaminableCare, the Republicans, no matter how much they might want to repeal it, can’t repeal it. That would require legislation which would have to pass the Senate, and even if it did that, get past a certain presidential veto.
But they can refuse to fund it! They can simply choose not to pass any of the appropriations to implement ObaminableCare, and neither the Democrats in the Senate nor the White House can compel them to pass it.
The House Republicans should not waste time tilting at windmills. I don’t really think that anyone is seriously trying to impeach President Obama, regardless of what some people might think. And wasting their time on a zillion subpoenas or useless congressional investigations would be just that: wasting their time. The voters have given the GOP a chance, just two-and-four short years after giving Republicans two major electoral bitch-slaps, and the lesson is clear: the voters’ patience is not high, and if the Republicans don’t do the jobs that the voters elected them to do, they’ll be out on their butts again. Time wasted on stuff that they can’t do is time taken away from what they can do. The Republicans can keep the Democrats from passing any new social legislation, but until they win the Senate and the White House, don’t have the power to reverse the bovine feces that has already been passed. And if they don’t do what they can do, there’s little chance that the 2012 elections will give them the Senate and the White House.
Now, four years later, the Republicans have even more power to do what has been suggested, but having more power does not mean that it will be wisely used. There will be a repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act attempted, and perhaps the Democrats in the Senate won’t even filibuster it, but it doesn’t matter; President Obama will veto that, and the Republicans have nowhere close to the number of votes to override a veto. It has to be attempted, because conservative voters demand it, but the GOP should not waste more time on it than necessary. Instead, what parts of it can be defunded should be defunded, because that is something within their power. An obvious and strong step: simply decline to appropriate any money to pay those Department of Health and Human Services bureaucrats who are tasked with overseeing and writing regulations for the wholly-misnamed Affordable Care Act.
But that cannot be done in the context of the huge, Department-wide appropriations bills that are used today; that gives the President the power to shut down whole sections of the government by vetoing one bill. That’s what President Clinton did in 1995, and he was a masterful enough politician to blame his vetoes of Republican-passed appropriations bills, and the subsequent government shutdowns, on the Republicans, and have the public believe him. Even though politically wounded, Republicans should never forget that President Obama is also a masterful politician — a far better politician than President! — and he could do the same thing to the GOP in 2015 as President Clinton did twenty years previously. Far more numerous, and much smaller, appropriations bills take that weapon away from the President.
With control of the Senate now, the Republicans can decline to confirm the worst of President Obama’s nominees, and should do so, but most of his nominees have not been particularly controversial. The President will probably eschew the more controversial nominees now anyway, not wanting to waste time and effort on people who cannot be confirmed, but I’d point out the qualifier I used: probably. With Barack Obama, you just never can be certain.
Big new programs or outright repeal of older ones favored by the Democrats? Those won’t happen, because the Republicans and the President will never agree on them. But, as one of our greatest Presidents noted, it is far more important to refuse to pass bad legislation than it is to pass good things.
The Republicans can get things done, as long as they carefully consider what they reasonably can do. Their greatest weapon is the power of the purse; it should be used strongly and wisely, and, if it is, the GOP stands a decent chance of retaining control of Congress in the next elections, and electing a Republican as our next President.