Recently, conservatives marked the 50th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s landmark “Time for Choosing” speech. One of the famous lines of that speech is more appropriate now that Republicans have won a decisive electoral victory than ever before:
Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we're always "against" things—we're never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.
If Reagan were around today, he would note that this sentiment is also expressed by elite GOP leadership. They believe that the desire of conservatives to use GOP control of congress to block Obama’s dangerous agenda is necessarily just a negative platform. They contend that we have to stand “for” something.
The trouble with our establishment friends is that they know so much that isn’t so.
Concurrent with our responsibility to block liberal judges and use the budget process to stop Obamacare and executive amnesty, conservatives have numerous ideas on the table. Here are just a few bills and initiatives that speak to the current relevant economic, national security, and individual liberty issues concerning the majority of Americans. Republicans should pass at least some of these within the first 100 days:
1. Protect America’s Borders and National Security: After stopping Obama’s amnesty, this is the number one priority of Congress. Any comprehensive border strategy would include a bill to complete the border fence, deport those who overstay visas, block visas from areas that represent a security or health risk, and strip visas and citizenship from those who fight for foreign terrorist groups. Here are several meritorious pieces of legislation:
2. Repeal Obamacare: The only way to get a repeal bill to Obama’s desk is to use the budget reconciliation process. Any serious commitment to fighting Obamacare starts with the budget process. Together with full repeal and defunding of the leviathan, Republicans must also vote on Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) bill (S.1726) that would end the bailout for big insurance companies. They must not only focus on parts of the law opposed by big business – some of the very same players that supported Obamacare in the first place.
3. Protecting Liberty: The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 3133/S. 1808), sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador’s (R-ID) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), would protect individuals and organizations from the federal government’s encroachment on private contracts in an effort to force them to violate their religious beliefs. Let the Democrats stand for discrimination against individuals who believe in traditional values on their own private property.
4. Cut Taxes for All/Fight Cronyism: Republicans are talking about corporate tax reform. Everyone agrees the 35% top marginal rate needs to be cut substantially, but it would be tone deaf for them not to address other taxes that directly affect individuals. They should block all attempts to institute a cross-state internet sales tax. They should also pass the Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act (H.R. 3894) sponsored by Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY), which would end the double taxation on seniors’ Social Security benefits. They should save broader entitlement reform for when we have the White House, but there is no reason Republicans can’t focus on cutting taxes for seniors on their Social Security benefits. If they are worried about losing the previous $20.7 billion in revenue from taxing benefits, they should offset the tax cut with the $25 billion in savings that can be achieved by cutting wasteful government spending outlined in Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) “Wastebook 2014”. Let Democrats try demagoguing that during the presidential election. Why is Congress prioritizing the study of monkey’s gambling habits over double taxing seniors? Republicans have historically been the ‘transparency Party.’ Now that we have the ability to push a transparent agenda, Republicans should start by passing the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (S.15) sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The REINS Act would increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process by requiring all federal agencies to submit any new regulation to Congress to approval.
5. End all Crony Subsidies: While unshackling our energy producers from government regulation, Republicans should also end the subsidies for energy companies. Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act (H.R. 259) eliminates every energy subsidy for all sectors and uses the revenue for an across-the-board tax cut for all businesses. This is a great way to push corporate tax cuts while also ending crony subsidies.
6. Promote Free Market Energy Policies: The American Energy Renaissance Act (S. 2170 and H.R. 4286), sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK). This bill eliminates most of the regulations and mandates and judicial review impediments on exploration, production, and exporting of oil and natural gas. It is a true all-of-the-above free market approach to an issue that is not only the lifeblood of a free society, but a potent weapon for combating Petro-tyrants. They should also immediately repeal the ethanol mandate, which raises the cost of fuel and food. According to a study cited by the Heartland Institute, families are forced to pay $2,055 more for food every year. A study from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that restaurants pay $18,000 more per year. This is all for the benefit of special interests that created this socialist mandate – the Obamacare of energy policy. And this is an effort that garners some degree of bipartisan support.
7. National Right to Carry: There is no issue that will put Democrats on defense like gun legislation. Just ask Bill Clinton. And especially with all of the homegrown terror threats growing, the right to bear arms has enjoyed increased popularity. Every Republican says they are pro-gun, and even a number of Democrats tag along. With control of both houses, a national right to carry bill is sound policy and solid politics. The best bills that respect the constitutional carry laws of all states are H.R. 578, sponsored by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) and S.1908 sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), David Vitter (R-LA), and John Thune (R-SD).
8. Reform the Federal Reserve: Liberals want to talk about income inequality, but nothing has created more inequality while using the boot of a central government more than the Federal Reserve. Through their monetary morphine, from 2007 – 2012 U.S. households have lost $360 billion in net interest income, while the government has saved $900 billion in net interest. The Federal Reserve Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), would eliminate the Federal Reserve’s power to manipulate the economy and force them to focus on their core mission – a stable currency. There is no reason an unelected body should have the power to destabilize our currency, hurt consumers and seniors – all to benefit Wall Street and grow government on the cheap. This is a unique opportunity to provide bold contrast. At a minimum, they should pass the Federal Reserve Transparency Act (audit the Fed) (H.R. 24/ S.209), which passed the House 333-92 in September. Let the Democrats try voting against it in the Senate.
9. Welfare Reform: Welfare reform is so popular Republicans forced a Democrat president to sign it. They sent it to his desk three times and shamed him on an issue supported by the broad public until he cried uncle. A broad group of Republicans have already crafted the Welfare Reform Act of 2011 – H.R. 1167/S. 2015, which would apply the same work standards and accountability measures of the ’96 bill to all 75+ transfer programs.
10. Empower the States: Both parties complain that Washington is broken, so why not return education and transportation – issues that are local in nature – to the states? Republicans need to stop tiptoeing around the education issue. The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity [HERO] Act (S.1904), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), would allow states to create their own system of accreditation, which could grant students the same benefits and status for pursuing alternative coursework, apprenticeships or vocational training, thereby ending the federal-induced monopoly of traditional universities on higher education. Better for students, better for taxpayers. Like education, the heavy hand of the federal government in our nation’s transportation system is harming taxpayers and families. The Transportation Empowerment Act sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Graves (R- GA), would allow for the creation of more roads, bridges and mass-transit by returning highway authority to the states. This bill would phase down the federal gas tax over five years from 18.4 cents per gallon, to 3.7 cents.
In no way are these initiatives limited to the aforementioned ten. Our hope is that specific proposals like these will serve as a tangible starting point for pursuing a bold and winning conservative agenda.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.