What Can Republicans Get Done?

 

shutterstock_100254761The folks at Reason have a list of ten suggested reforms the 114th should pass. Though the it has few surprises — most of Reason’s hobby-horses make an appearance — the list struck me as (comparatively) modest and (almost) realistic. It focuses more on reforming existing institutions and programs in ways that at least conceivably could get past senate Democrats and President Obama’s veto pen, than on sweeping changes that would be awesome, but would never happen.

Definitely read the whole thing — each is given just a few paragraphs’ outline, including a brief summary of recent efforts to pass similar legislation — but the list is:

  1. Restore “fast track” trade promotion authority;
  2. End blanket NSA surveillance;
  3. Curtail civil asset forfeiture;
  4. Kill the renewable fuels mandate;
  5. Lower the drinking age;
  6. Audit the Fed;
  7. Fix government worker pensions;
  8. Implement sentencing reform;
  9. Let federal education funds follow kids; and
  10. Respect marijuana federalism

Obviously, some of these are highly unlikely to see the light of day —  lowering the federal drinking age, for instance, strikes me as sensible-but-impossible and many of the others run into the time-honored problem of asking the Federal government to willing curb itself — but others might stand a fighting chance. Fast-track promotion gives the president more power (though, ironically, the power to do less); asset forfeiture has something approaching bi-partisan support; the specific pension reforms Reason recommends shouldn’t get too much opposition; and some kind of federal accommodation on marijuana seems almost inevitable.

So what’s missing? The obvious candidate is ObamaCare, though it’s equally easily dismissed as not being realistic so long as its namesake resides on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some other suggestions:

  • The War Powers Resolution is clearly not working for anyone. Hawks generally think it’s overly-restrictive on the presidency, while intervention skeptics think it’s overly-lax, and both sides can cite the constitution in their defense. Given how consistently we seem to run into problems on this matter, some kind of tinkering seems in order, preferably before the court has to get involved. This is probably over-ambitious, but even baby-steps would be a welcome change.
  • Find some way to let the president sign-off on Keystone, even if that means letting him steal the credit. That’s what happened with welfare reform under Clinton, and — on net — it was probably worth it.
  • A nationalized liberation on organ donations would be ideal, but but simply allowing states to experiment with various regimes would be a huge improvement. Don’t ask me; ask Richard Epstein.

There are 18 comments.

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  1. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    I read the original article; it is a good start.  If the GOP-114 could even get one of those done, it would be great.

    Let’s hope some of them read reason or ricochet.

    Like.

    • #1
  2. user_331141 Member
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    I think the War Powers Resolution is an important one. For far too long it has allowed Congress to have their cake and eat it too.

    • #2
  3. user_517406 Member
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Now I understand why I am not a libertarian.  There’s not much on this list I’d put anywhere near the top ten and some of it I’d enthusiastically oppose!!!!

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @PleatedPantsForever

    TM – here is what is missing….cut something, even just cut a single program, just please find something to cut. I’m, generally fine with the list above, but just dream of an actual budget cut.

    Federal outlays are over $3.5 trillion and we are celebrating a deficit that is “only” a half trillion dollars. This is insane.

    I don’t think there is any hope of reforming entitlements until it is shown a few more times that federal programs can be cut and the world won’t end. My suggestion would be to start with the silliest ones (I posted on this last week and would link but am on my phone). If the Migratory Bird Fund is cut and the other side wants to argue we need it while middle class incomes tank, I say, let’s have that debate.

    And, yes, I have heard the argument that crazy old Pant’s programs are only $1 million dollars and equate to $0.03 per citizen. To which I say $1 million is the total tax paid by the sum of hundreds of middle class families. So, hundreds of households pay taxes all year just for migratory birds.

    Sorry, this January Chicago weather is getting to me and I’m a little cranky.

    • #4
  5. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    I like that list.

    • #5
  6. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Merina Smith: There’s not much on this list I’d put anywhere near the top ten and some of it I’d enthusiastically oppose!!!!

    The point isn’t for them to be in the top ten; none of us are going to get anything like that while Obama’s in office (and even after, let’s not hold our breaths too much). It’s a question of what can realistically be done in the next two years with things as they are.

    What would you suggest Congress do?

    • #6
  7. user_331141 Member
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Merina Smith: Now I understand why I am not a libertarian.  There’s not much on this list I’d put anywhere near the top ten and some of it I’d enthusiastically oppose!!!!

    /sigh

    • #7
  8. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Pleated Pants Forever: I don’t think there is any hope of reforming entitlements until it is shown a few more times that federal programs can be cut and the world won’t end. My suggestion would be to start with the silliest ones (I posted on this last week and would link but am on my phone).

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the tears of interest groups and rent-seekers.

    I could get behind that. ;)

    • #8
  9. user_517406 Member
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Jamie Lockett:

    Merina Smith: Now I understand why I am not a libertarian. There’s not much on this list I’d put anywhere near the top ten and some of it I’d enthusiastically oppose!!!!

    /sigh

    Jamie, my old friend!  Back to making you sigh!

    I’m with Mr. Pleated–begin by making some sensible cuts.  I think they could also make some progress on immigration and a fence if they tried.  Immigration is down and even immigrants understand that there are boundaries.  I’ve never understood why we don’t have a robust guest worker program. Those aren’t exactly union jobs.  They can probably get rid of the medical device tax with Dem support and I wonder if they couldn’t shoot down IPAB with Dem support too.  I suppose they are waiting for the Supremes on that though.  I know Obama has vowed to veto everything, but when he does that to popular bills it gets his party in trouble.  Pass the legislation, make him veto it if he dares, and in the process lay out the vision of the party.  I am with you on fixing pensions, however.

    • #9
  10. Mendel Member
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Given the current situation, the Congress’ real job over the next two years is going to be auditioning for 2016. With that in mind, I think passing small-ball consensus legislation will be less important than a) presenting the party’s putative platform for 2017, and b) acting competent.

    Obviously, passing a few small bills that everyone likes would demonstrate a degree of competence. But even more important will be how Congress passes much larger mandatory legislation like the budgets.

    • #10
  11. Mendel Member
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Lower the drinking age;

    For the record, this is the wrong approach.

    Congress should not lower the drinking age; rather, they should abolish a federal drinking age all together and return that decision to each state. Perhaps the states would lower the age, perhaps not – but it is certainly their decision to make (and something of a blemish on Reagan’s federalist credentials).

    In fairness to Reason, their description of this issue also calls for repeal of the federal drinking age, but they placed it behind a somewhat misleading title.

    • #11
  12. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Why is lowering the drinking age “impossible”?

    Seems incredibly simple, and would signal to younger voters that Republicans aren’t just a bunch of old white puritans.  Especially if Obama has to defend a veto.

    • #12
  13. Butters Member
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    the GOP needs to troll Obama by passing laws that are popular with his coalition

    legalize marijuana – this would infuriate Obama, he loves being loved by the kiddies and the idea of the GOP as the cool party that legalized pot would make his head explode

    lower the drinking age to 18 (or no federal drinking age) – see above

    repeal the gas tax – let Obama drone about roads and bridges while he refuses to help people at the pump

    • #13
  14. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Miffed White Male: Seems incredibly simple, and would signal to younger voters that Republicans aren’t just a bunch of old white puritans.  Especially if Obama has to defend a veto.

    Because anyone who votes for it will be blamed for the death of every 19-year-old who gets drunk and crashes his car. The political incentives are terrible, unfortunately.

    • #14
  15. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Miffed White Male: Seems incredibly simple, and would signal to younger voters that Republicans aren’t just a bunch of old white puritans. Especially if Obama has to defend a veto.

    Because anyone who votes for it will be blamed for the death of every 19-year-old who gets drunk and crashes his car. The political incentives are terrible, unfortunately.

    Disagree.  Who’s getting blamed for all the 19-year-olds getting drunk and crashing cars now?

    I’d submit that with 18-20 year-olds legally drinking in supervised settings, you’d have fewer people of that age getting killed in crashes.

    • #15
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Pleated Pants Forever: TM – here is what is missing….cut something, even just cut a single program, just please find something to cut. I’m, generally fine with the list above, but just dream of an actual budget cut.

    Libertarians rarely support actual reductions in government spending. They like the kind of high level analysis that interacts poorly with actual cuts. No Republican in 2012 grew spending as fast or as irresponsibly when in government as Gary Johnson, the ultimate Libertarian candidate, enthusiastically supported by Reason.

    Mendel:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Lower the drinking age;

    For the record, this is the wrong approach.

    Congress should not lower the drinking age; rather, they should abolish a federal drinking age all together and return that decision to each state. Perhaps the states would lower the age, perhaps not – but it is certainly their decision to make (and something of a blemish on Reagan’s federalist credentials).

    In fairness to Reason, their description of this issue also calls for repeal of the federal drinking age, but they placed it behind a somewhat misleading title.

    You’ll notice that point seven is explicitly opposed to the federal structure of the Constitution. It comes close to being a breach of the Tenth Amendment, not just in spirit but in letter.

    • #16
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Miffed White Male:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Miffed White Male: Seems incredibly simple, and would signal to younger voters that Republicans aren’t just a bunch of old white puritans. Especially if Obama has to defend a veto.

    Because anyone who votes for it will be blamed for the death of every 19-year-old who gets drunk and crashes his car. The political incentives are terrible, unfortunately.

    Disagree. Who’s getting blamed for all the 19-year-olds getting drunk and crashing cars now?

    I’d submit that with 18-20 year-olds legally drinking in supervised settings, you’d have fewer people of that age getting killed in crashes.

    You’re not disagreeing. You’re saying that reformers wouldn’t be to blame, which is only partly a related question to whether they would be blamed. Loss aversion is a really dumb part of the human mind. Aristotle dramatically increased our vulnerability to it.

    • #17
  18. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    I wonder if we couldn’t get some kind of Social Security Disability reform.  Even a lot of Democrats must see that there are a lot of people fraudulently claiming to be disabled.  The fraudulent cases are taking money from a program meant to help the genuinely disabled, and I should think that most people – whether from the left or right – would want to put a stop to that.

    • #18

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