As Republican majorities take the reins of power in Congress and in the Colorado House of Representatives, they carry the lofty expectations of their supporters alongside the inconvenient reality that Democrats still control half of the legislative branch plus the executive branch.
Practically speaking, Republicans can do only so much, but that certainly doesn’t mean they are powerless. Here’s what a good strategy for the next two years might look like:
First, kill bad bills. There’s truth in the maxim, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Legislation that empowers bureaucrats or creates new opportunities for litigation simply cannot be “fixed,” so kill it.
Taxpayers will breathe a sigh of relief if they know certain bills are dead on arrival. This should include tax increases and new mandates that require businesses and families to spend after-tax dollars on things bureaucrats or lobbyists think we supposedly need.
Republicans also should see to it that the wish lists of labor unions, trial lawyers and nanny-statists aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
Next, govern effectively. Republicans will be expected to work with Democrats. That’s fine, up to a point, but that must be a two-way street.
Since neither party can get everything it wants, Republicans repeatedly should establish the principles of fiscally responsible, taxpayer-friendly, market-oriented, pro-growth governance in every debate. Get government out of the way and unleash the productivity and creativity of the people. Let Democrats continue to make the tired argument that politicians and bureaucrats are smarter than the rest of us.
At every opportunity, voters should see the contrast between pro-growth, pro-freedom policies and the bankrupt liberal agenda.
In Congress, Republicans have a chance to regain their credibility as the party of limited government, balanced budgets and economic growth. They dare not squander this opportunity.
By requiring every piece of legislation to explain how it falls within Congress’s constitutional authority, Republicans already have instituted a rule that, if adhered to, could cause a seismic shift in the political culture. Remember when Nancy Pelosi, when asked where the Constitution gives Congress authority to implement ObamaCare, responded incredulously, “Are you serious?”
Yes, Nancy, we are serious.
Spending bills must originate in the U.S. House so Republicans can restore sanity to runaway spending that soared from $24,000 per household prior to the recession to $36,000 under the Obama budgets. Congress should require that unspent “stimulus” funds be returned and committed to deficit reduction.
Finally, Congress can use its oversight authority to expose arrogant bureaucrats who would choke off access to domestic oil and gas supplies, impose costly regulations on energy production, and tax or regulate the Internet.
At the state Capitol, bills to increase revenue must originate in the House, according to the state constitution. Nothing that emits even a whiff of tax increase should leave the Capitol without the constitutionally required vote of the people. And after more than $1 billion in surreptitious tax and fee increases during the past four years, voters are in no mood.
Republican legislators should lay down a few markers: no more fees that simply raise money for general government purposes, no more mandates that require consumers to buy insurance coverage they don’t want or cannot afford, and no more regulations that increase the cost of energy to consumers.
Above all else, elected Republicans must remember: “Don’t go native.”
Last November, many people with different ideas and priorities voted Republican because they were sick of Democrats spending money they didn’t have, growing government into a ubiquitous burden, piling debt on our children and grandchildren, and raising taxes with impunity.
The halls of government are full of lobbyists and bureaucrats who advocate for more government spending, more regulation and more limits on personal freedom.
Republicans’ mission is to put taxpayers back in charge by making government serve the people — reversing the liberal inclination to make people serve government.
Mark Hillman served as Colorado senate majority leader and state treasurer. To read more, visit www.MarkHillman.com.