HUMAN EVENTS Asks Congress:What Should Bush Make His Top Priority?

President Bush used his inaugural address on January 20 to emphasis broad goals for his second term, including the expansion of freedom across the globe and promoting an “ownership society” at home. HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor Robert B. Bluey asked Republican senators what they would like to see Bush tackle as the top policy priority in his second term.


What would you like to see the President make the top priority in his second term?

SEN. JON KYL (R.-ARIZ.): Obviously, the top priority is national security, but beyond that it’s a matter of timing. The immediate top priority, I believe, is to lock down the tax rates so we don’t have a massive tax increase with regard to the tax cuts that were passed in 2003. Following that, closely, is Social Security reform. I think that could be possible right after the first half of the year. But the tax cuts to be made permanent or extended would be in the spring of the year. And then, I presume, when Social Security is finished, he could take up tax simplification. There are a lot of other ideas in between all of those, but I think the President’s laying those out as big themes.


What would you like to see President Bush make a priority in his second term?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R.-MAINE): I think most important is to resolve the war in Iraq. That’s obviously of great concern to all Americans. In the aftermath of the [Iraq] elections and how those transpire, he needs to carve out the future for our troops there and, ultimately, for our exit strategy. That’s going to be critically important and of paramount concern to all Americans. Secondly, is the well being of the economy and addressing health-related issues on health insurance. Hopefully, we can address the issue of simplifying and improving the tax code. I do share that desire, and hopefully, he can talk specifically about what he views as the course for achieving that goal. I hear from so many constituents about that issue. I hope he’ll be able to address more substantively his vision, views and perspective of how he intends to go about addressing them.


What do think President Bush’s top public policy priority should be in his second term?

SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R.-FLA.): Obviously, I think achieving a solution to the difficult problem in Iraq would be No. 1. And on the domestic front, I believe that we need to do something with our healthcare and Social Security. Those seem to be the agenda items that are surfacing to be the most important, and I think we need to pursue those. And I think something needs to be done to ensure the viability of Social Security for our children and grandchildren. To say there is no problem really isn’t good enough.


What should President Bush’s top public policy priority be for his second term?

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R.-MISS.): Obviously, to continue to make sure we win the war against terror and to make sure we keep America and the homeland secure. And then under that, there are all kinds of things we need to deal with. We need fundamental pension reform. We need tax reform. We need a highway bill. We need an energy policy. We do need to make sure Social Security is going to be protected and strengthened. We’ve got a lot we can do, and of course under that rubric of tax policy, we need to look at reform and making permanent the middle class tax cut. I look forward to seeing his budget. It’s going to really set the agenda for us.


What do you think the President’s top public policy priority should be in the second term?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R.-UTAH): It’s got to be against terrorism and winning the war in Iraq. And, of course, trying to solve some of the economic problems that we have in this country, which are very serious.


What should the President’s top public policy priority be in his second term?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R.-VA.): First and foremost, of course, is prosecuting and winning the war against terror. That is preeminent. As a commander in chief, that will entail many different aspects, obviously moving forward in Iraq, trying to stop proliferation, getting other countries to cooperate. … On the domestic front, in my view, we should make sure every American has an equal opportunity to compete and succeed in life. That will include things such as taxes, making sure our tax laws are not burdensome, making sure our regulations are not burdensome, our litigation system, the medical liability issues, asbestos, and such; the energy bill…. The judicial issue is probably the No. 1 values issue. People always talk about values, and judges ought to be applying the law, not inventing the law. And the President’s nominees ought to be accorded the fairness of an up-or-down vote.


What do you think the President’s top policy priority ought to be in his second term?

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R.-GA.): I think the President has put forth a solid agenda in terms of Social Security, continuing to prosecute the war on terror and bringing liberty to more people, to look at tax simplification and tort reform. That’s a pretty substantial agenda.


What do you think the President’s top priority should be in his second term?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R.-NEB.): I think the President has laid out clearly what his top priorities are, and I agree that Social Security reform, immigration reform and tax reform are important. All three are different. Immigration reform is probably more urgent than any of the rest because it impacts us now. I don’t think we have a crisis in Social Security yet. We will, and that’s why it’s important we address Social Security reform now while we’ve got time. Tax reform, I think almost everybody would agree with that general premise, but it’s always what we mean by tax reform. … I’m encouraged with the President’s bold agenda. It’s going to be difficult. He doesn’t have much of a margin because of the budget problem. That’s one of the first things he wants to accomplish–cut the deficit in half. I think we need to get reattached to responsibility. We have drifted a long way from being a fiscally responsible government and we’re paying a price and we’ll pay a very high price if we don’t get our fiscal house in order.


What should the President’s top priority be in his second term?

SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R.-MISS.): I was very impressed with his definition of our goals and our challenges. I think he’s going to have strong support in the Congress and across America for keeping our economy moving in the right direction and safeguarding our freedoms. Winding up the situation in Iraq successfully–I’m hopeful that it can be ended sooner rather than later. With strong leadership, that’s possible.