2011: The Republican Congressional Agenda
By Donald Lambro
WASHINGTON -- The new Republican-leaning Congress will get down to business in a few days to deal with the concerns of voters who were unhappy with the gang who ran the last Congress.
"Republican-leaning" may be an insufficient term for the incoming Congress. The Republicans, who crushed the Pelosi Democrats with a net gain of 63 GOP seats, now rule the entire House, its legislative machinery, oversight powers, and all tax-revenue measures, which must originate in the so-called lower chamber.
No legislation becomes law without the consent of the House, and those 63 largely rock-ribbed conservative members are in no mood to pass the rest of President Obama's big-spending, liberal agenda. Indeed, they want to repeal major parts of his earlier agenda.
The Senate, on the other hand, is still controlled by the Democrats, though Republicans have six more members now, shrinking Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's liberal majority to a tenuous three-vote margin. But several members of Reid's army, who come from conservative states, are on the ideologically endangered-species list in 2012 and might not be so eager to vote the party line next year.
If the White House hopes to pass anything in the Senate over the next two years, it will first need the approval of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Obama will be the first to admit that McConnell's approval is hard to get. Color the Senate reddish.
But what are the Republicans planning to do with their newfound power? They ran on a campaign pledge to grow the economy, put Americans back to work, apply the brakes on reckless spending and spiraling debt, because that's what the voters told them they wanted done.
"In short, the Pledge is the plan," Brendan Buck, chief spokesman for incoming House Speaker John Boehner, told me. "This fall, we laid out our Pledge to America, an agenda that reflects the people's priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending, and repealing the job-killing Obamacare law. Without tipping our hand too early on tactics, those will be our priorities in the new year."
How will they create more jobs? By boosting economic growth through new tax incentives to unlock needed venture-capital investment for start-up firms, and lowering tax burdens for all business, workers and investors. Don't expect more of Obama's spending stimulus plan, which dumped hundreds of billions of dollars into government spending that disappeared into a black hole and created few jobs, as 10 percent unemployment clearly confirms.
The late, great tax-cut crusader Jack Kemp used to say that you couldn't have more employees without more employers.
Starting or expanding businesses takes money from risk-taking entrepreneurs. We need to enact tax policies that offer incentives for new capital formation, like cutting the capital-gains tax, as President Clinton did in his second term when the economy soared, jobs were plentiful and incomes rose.
Obama not only condemned tax-rate reduction to get the economy growing again (until he and his party got a shellacking in the midterm elections); he wanted to raise taxes on investors, capital gains, corporations and Wall Street.
He has rarely sought the advice of top business leaders during his presidency, and you won't find one among his advisers or in his Cabinet. But if you ask business leaders, they will tell you the new Congress needs to do just the opposite of what Obama has been doing.
"We have heard candidates on both sides of the aisle talking about the importance of economic recovery, growth and job creation," says Jay Timmons, the incoming president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
"The way to ensure these important goals are met is to adopt lower tax rates, open new markets through free-trade agreements, lower energy costs by expanding domestic access ... and curtail burdensome and overreaching regulations that stifle growth," he said.
For the past two years, as unemployment climbed steadily higher, Obama sat on the South Korea, Colombia and Panama free-trade agreements. He finally embraced the agreement with Seoul but has sought no new bilateral-trade pacts that would risk offending powerful union bosses.
Wonder why gasoline is so expensive? U.S. moratoriums on offshore drilling have pushed gas prices to over $3 a gallon.
The incoming Republican-leaning Congress is already at work on these and other issues.
House Republican leaders say they are combing the budget for big spending cuts to come as soon as Obama submits his spending proposals. Over at the House Financial Services Committee, they've already begun going through the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law "provision by provision."
An economic-growth and job-creation bill is being worked on as well and will be one of the first pieces of legislation Republicans will bring to the House floor early next year.
Obama now says he's willing to work with Republicans in the new Congress. They're going to give him plenty of opportunities to do so.