Published on TheHill.com on April 12, 2011
Amid a Congress of baby steps, Paul Ryan strides like a giant.
In a party of timidity, hand-wringing and hesitation, Michele Bachmann roars like a lioness.
Together, Ryan and Bachmann are the core of the new, young Republican Party in the making, rising — as Gingrich did in 1994 — from the ashes of the discredited establishment.
Rep. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget blueprint is a thing of beauty. Stepping boldly on the third rails of our politics, he outlines a vision for a return to free enterprise and limited government that would have made Thomas Jefferson’s heart proud. His proposal to block-grant Medicaid and turn it over to the states breathes new life into federalism and gives us back the 10th Amendment. If courageous governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Rick Scott of Florida can wrest education from the control of the labor unions and Ryan can free Medicaid from the feds, we can have state government again in America. His proposal to let the states determine eligibility and benefits and to let them experiment with Health Savings Accounts uses the laboratory of federalism to test solutions to our healthcare crisis — the opposite of the one-size-fits-all socialism of ObamaCare.
No less significant is Ryan’s plan to return non-defense discretionary spending to below its 2008 levels, reducing the cost and, inevitably, the power of Washington. By repealing ObamaCare, reining in the Environmental Protection Agency and rolling back the stimulus spending, he would scrub the budget clean of the scars of the Obama presidency.
His Medicare proposal repeals the $500 billion of cuts in healthcare to the elderly over the next 10 years that financed ObamaCare and implements vast savings in the program a decade hence. Any cuts in the federal budget over the next decade are, of course, conjectural. When one goes further out, it is fanciful. But Ryan shows us how to do it when we get there.
But the timidity of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in refusing to go to the mat for a full $61 billion of spending cuts shows how difficult it will be to progress toward Ryan’s goals. That’s where Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) comes in. Alone among the GOP establishment and the Republican presidential possibilities, she stood up and demanded that the Republican Party keep its campaign promises to the American people. Alone, she had the courage to say we must fight and the wisdom to predict that we would have won had we done so.
Closer to the American people than the denizens of D.C., she realized the issue would not have been whom to blame for a shutdown, but to which party should go the credit for standing up against exorbitant spending. She got it that the contest would have been between more spending and less spending and that the Republican Party would have emerged covered with glory.
But, in a larger sense, she realizes we need a hammer if we are to build a house guided by Paul Ryan’s blueprint. We won’t persuade the nails to go in, we need to pound them in. Republican plans to cut spending and reform budgeting before raising the debt-limit ceiling and to make Ryan’s budget a reality hinge on their willingness to use the one weapon they have: a government shutdown. The very essence of one-house control is the negative veto power of zero appropriations. To forswear its use is to embrace impotence.
Are we seeing a Thatcher in the making? Is this outspoken lawyer from Minnesota — with a master’s degree in tax law — the one to persuade us to return to conservative principles? In a field that includes Huckabee’s values and Gingrich’s intellect (and Romney’s flip-flops), shall we add Bachmann’s courage to the mix?
It’s too early to tell, but in the crucible of this conflict, she has certainly come through for her country and her party. Between Ryan and Bachmann, maybe there’s hope after all.