Opinion: Establishment Begone
As congressional Republicans bask in their historic rout of Democrats, taking the House of Representatives and closing the margin in the Senate, the survivors left in Washington, D.C. have a clear message from the American people: "You could be next."
The fact is, nobody in the Washington establishment thought it was possible. Obama was too popular. Republicans needed to compromise in order to survive. When asked in January if Republicans could take back the House, RNC Chairman Michael Steele fatefully predicted, "Not this year."
The American people had other ideas. Led by the tea party movement and other citizen activists, the nation's citizenry did not wait for leadership from on-high. Instead, they took matters into their own hands and have been engaged from day one, holding their individual members of Congress accountable, participating in primaries, and recruiting friends, neighbors, and family members in an effort to take their country back.
Most of all, it is the people who have done the impossible, helping Republicans grab some 63 seats (and still counting), the most picked up by either party since 1948. The GOP did even better than in 1994, when they picked up 54 seats. The American people who made it happen deserve the lion's share of the credit.
Now, however, they do need real leaders to stand up in Congress, individual members who will represent them against an entrenched Obama Administration seeking to protect its legislative "achievements".
Republicans will have capable prospects with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who do deserve praise for leading the opposition during the first two dark years of the Obama presidency. It was not a foregone conclusion that Republicans would unite against the $812 billion "stimulus", ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank financial takeover, and the Waxman-Markey cap-and-tax. But they did, and it gave the American people confidence that they had representation — that they had a voice.
And now, more than ever, they need a House Republican majority to continue to be their voice in government. The alternative is for Republicans to now disappoint them after all the hard work the grassroots did.
With a nation too far in debt at $13.6 trillion, ObamaCare threatening to drive up health care premiums and drive Americans off of their private health plans, the EPA restricting energy consumption via carbon emissions, taxes about to automatically increase by $300 billion, and the Federal Reserve ready to fire up the printing presses one more time, congressional Republicans are going to have their hands full.
The challenges facing the nation are daunting, and cannot wait for even more reinforcements, or else they may never arrive. Before Republicans can look forward to 2012, they must focus on the here-and-now, and waste no time implementing their agenda.
It will not do to only put things on the table that have a "chance" of getting signed by Barack Obama. That's not leadership, and it will not foster public support for the "politically safe" policies that are ultimately proposed.
First on the GOP to-do list now is to define the debate going forward. Republicans now will be able to say what the most pressing concerns are through their votes on legislation. Repealing ObamaCare, making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent to help create jobs, rescinding the EPA's endangerment finding, cancelling TARP and the "stimulus", killing the Dodd-Frank unlimited bailout fund before it gets started, and auditing the Federal Reserve are things they do not need to compromise on — at all. These are items that can and should be dealt with in short order, whether support can be generated in the Senate or not.
House Republicans have an opportunity to raise the bar extraordinarily high.
Then, it will be worth having a heart-to-heart with the American people about housing finance. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already received $150 billion of taxpayer bailouts since 2008. Right now, under existing law, they can receive an unlimited amount of money from the Treasury through the end of 2012, and then another $275 billion after that.
Right now, Fannie, Freddie, and the FHA are underwriting nine out of ten new mortgages, well above the historical average. This needs to end, and private financing for mortgage lending renewed. One thing is for certain, unlimited government financing of housing, combined with weak lending standards, too-low down payments, and too-low interest rates, delivered the housing boom and bust that has wrecked the U.S. economy. Republicans need to be unequivocal that this must never be allowed to happen again.
All of these points can be driven home with their new-found subpoena power. Republicans should call witnesses to testify on everything from the sovereign debt crisis, to Fed purchases of treasuries, to how government caused the financial crisis, to how "stimulus" monies were mishandled, to the Department of Labor's decision to rescind union transparency regulations. They should also delve into the Justice Department's mismanagement of election fraud and civil rights issues.
Next, there is the all-important budget process. Republicans must remember they lost power because they spent too much. Their toughest job will be to deliberatively eliminate the $1.3 trillion budget deficit. They should balance the budget and pressure the Senate and White House to follow suit.
Finally, they must continue to connect with the American people and utilize the widespread grassroots support they have been able to assemble to the polls on Election Day. These are their willing ground troops who can place pressure on other vulnerable members of Congress who will be on the ballot in 2012. They will be able to help get key pieces of legislation across the finish line with a very credible threat to wishy-washy members of both parties: "You could be next."
Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.