Published on TheHill.com on November 5, 2014
The Republican Party now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to define its brand by passing legislation through both houses of Congress. Even if President Obama vetoes the bills — as he will — they will answer the nagging question among the voters: What does the Republican Party stand for?
Conventional political consultants will be content to luxuriate in the negative image Obama has created for himself and for his party. But the wiser leaders of the GOP will realize that it is only by articulating a programmatic alternative that Republicans can really seal the deal with the majority of Americans.
Nobody pays attention to political platforms or candidate speeches. White papers from campaigns are best for lining wastebaskets. The media won’t cover one-house bills passed by Republicans knowing that the Senate will never assent.
But if the Republicans pass serious legislation through both houses of Congress, the media has to take it seriously. And if these bills are in sync with the concerns of most Americans, it will only be to the advantage of the GOP if Obama vetoes them.
Republicans in the House have amassed a considerable body of good proposals that passed the House but Harry Reid has refused to bring up in the Senate. More are lying on desks in committee, ready to be reported out.
The GOP should declare its own “100 days” and pass a comprehensive set of proposals to capture the attention and admiration of the American people.
The legislation should include:
• Approval of the Keystone oil pipeline
• Repeal of limits on natural gas exports to Europe to fight Russian influence there
• An override of Obama’s forthcoming executive order ending certain deportations
• Corporate tax reform to lower rates and repeal deductions
• Regulation of derivatives
• An end to the carried interest tax break
• Repeal of special treatment for illegal immigrant children who show up at the border from Central America
• A flight ban on arrivals from West Africa while Ebola remains a danger there
• Privacy legislation to rein in the National Security Agency
• Completion of a border fence with Mexico
• Over-the-counter contraception sales
• New sanctions on Iran unless it meets certain congressionally required thresholds for dismantling its nuclear program
• Requiring the Department of Commerce to renew its contract with the Internet oversight group ICANN to forestall a United Nations takeover
• Repeal of the one-sided regulations adopted by the National Labor Relations Board
• Rejecting the Law of the Sea and Arms Trade treaties in the Senate
• Repeal of the “death panel” Medicare Payment Advisory Board and repeal of the medical device tax in ObamaCare
• Barring Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas rules and repealing subsidies of renewable sources of energy
• Reinforcing the ban in the Affordable Care Act against forcing the cancellation of grandfathered policies. The Congress should specify that no changes in policies or premiums can evade the application of this ban.
Most of this ambitious agenda will meet with the approval of both the moderate and the Tea Party wings of the Party. With a minimum of posturing and squabbling, the Republican leadership of Congress should move to enact it and to seize the initiative away from the Obama administration.
Obama’s vetoes will come to stereotype his administration and the Democrats as the real Party of No — an appellation too often appended to the GOP in the past. And they will tie the hands of the Democratic nominee in 2016. If it is Hillary Clinton, she will have to disavow the vetoes to win the swing vote even as she has to embrace them to court the party base.
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