Guest: What Republicans need to accomplish now that they control Congress
Now that Republicans control both the U.S. House and Senate, here are things they should do to restore confidence here and abroad and to build momentum for the 2016 elections, writes guest columnist George Nethercutt.
Special to The Times
WITH Republicans in charge of Congress starting in January, here are six suggestions they should adopt to restore public confidence.
• In two years, pay down a portion of the national debt: America’s national debt is more than $16 trillion at a time when our nation’s gross domestic product is nearly $17 trillion, the largest in the world. Excessive national indebtedness worries most citizens, especially those who identify with the tea party.
Congress should publicly establish a goal of paying down some of the debt within two years. Doing so would restore public confidence and make the 2016 presidential campaign easier for the Republican candidate. It would also put pressure on President Obama to realize his spendthrift, leftist agenda is unacceptable to the public.
• Republicans in the U.S. Senate should re-establish the filibuster rule at 60 votes: For decades, the filibuster rule in the Senate required 60 votes to cut off debate. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the vote to 51, for political reasons, during his ineffective leadership period. While Senate Republicans, now in the majority, have every right to keep the 51-vote rule as payback to Democrats, they should be statesmen and resist the urge. Restoring the traditional Senate rule would demonstrate their commitment to historical tradition.
• Republicans should publicly establish three legislative goals for their majority: First, present Obama with legislation to fix the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It hasn’t worked for America, and polls show the public still rejects it as public policy. Second, pass all appropriations bills on time and within budget parameters. Third, address immigration reform, even if through piecemeal actions. Doing so is correct public policy and could expand the Republican base for 2016.
• Establish foreign policy goals that would last a generation: Congress can publicly articulate and adopt legislation that establishes clear foreign-policy goals. President Obama has failed to do so, and the rest of the world knows it. Henry Kissinger has propounded several questions that should be asked of future leaders looking ahead to the next 25 years: What should America seek to accomplish and what should it seek to prevent, both alone and with a multinational force? What goals and values should America pursue?
• Congress should adopt job-creating legislation that would boost the American economy: The economy is teetering and the worldwide financial sector knows it. Other countries look to the U.S. to lead with economic policies that stress income equality and opportunity, infrastructure quality and business prosperity. A strong U.S. economy will positively affect other nations. A combination of tax reform and incentive-driven policies could have job-creating results.
• Stress the importance of traditional education by adopting a national requirement for civic learning: Educating our children — the next generation of leaders — about the American story should be a national priority. It hasn’t been taught effectively for a generation, so too many students know little about the founding concepts of justice, rule of law, equality, liberty, free enterprise or human rights, among others. Arguably, applicants who seek American citizenship are more knowledgeable about our system than those of us born in the U.S. That should change, and Congress could lead on widely accepted civic learning as public policy.
Majority Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate have a golden opportunity to show America and the world what their leadership can look like. If they simply revert to partisan bashing and Obama criticism, they’ll lose that opportunity. If they show that they want to move America forward, despite a president whose policies have largely failed, they’ll garner the support and confidence of millions worldwide and leave a legacy of progress, not a legacy of partisanship, stonewalling and bickering that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid established over the past six years.
Whoever emerges as the 2016 Republican presidential candidate will need Congress to have accomplished specific aims. And, with more Republicans at risk in the 2016 congressional elections, it’s in a Republican Congress’ own self-interest to have positive public policies and a voter-approved record on which to base their re-elections. If they accomplish something good for the people, they’ll see congressional approval ratings finally leave single digits.
George Nethercutt, a Republican, was the U.S. representative for the 5th congressional district of Washington from 1995 to 2005. He is the chairman of the George Nethercutt Foundation, a nonprofit focused on helping students receive a better civics education.