Whether they’re politically motivated or not, the recent charges filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay might actually be the least of the GOP’s troubles. With plummeting approval ratings (33% according to a RealClearPolitics average), burgeoning deficits, and a determined cadre of fiscal conservatives ready to buck party leaders on spending, House Republican brass should take notice of their rather thin 13-seat majority. If the leadership cannot patch together significant legislative achievements during the remainder of the 109th Congress, and convince their typically stalwart allies that the GOP really is the party of limited government, conservative voters could choose to stay home in November 2006. If that happens, the following is what Tom DeLay and company (assuming their own reelection) could face in the 110th Congress.
John Conyers, the iconic figure of the labor and anti-war movements, would assume the role of Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. As one of the most liberal Members of Congress (perfect marks from the AFSCME government employee union), he has repeatedly voted against tort reform and bankruptcy reform, and has introduced increases in federal spending that would make Republican highway pork baron Don Young blush. According to BillTally data from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, in the 108th Congress Conyers called for over $1.8 trillion in new federal spending and just $8 million in cuts. It is a safe bet that conservatives would have their hands full with a Chairman Conyers, the man who expressed “moral indignation and outrage” at across-the-board tax relief.
Congressman Charles Rangel is no Adam Clayton Powell, but he has already proven to be hostile to taxpayer interests. While not quite the fire-breathing iconoclast of the Conyers’ stature, Rangel has a record on fiscal matters that is hardly laudable; he also called for enacting over $1.8 trillion in new federal spending during the last Congress, but without a single significant offset to the federal budget. Rangel has been a steadfast opponent of income, capital gains, and dividend tax cuts, and insists such marginal rate reductions are merely a sop to the super-rich. If Democrats take over Congress, Representative Rangel will head one of the most powerful committees in Washington, the tax-writing Ways and Means panel. This should give conservatives pause for thought, since Rangel scored a paltry 9% on National Taxpayers Union’s comprehensive rating of Congress last year.
In addition to these two powerful committees that could potentially fall into the hands of far-left free-spenders, Barney Frank could lead the Financial Services Committee. Like other members of the so-called “Progressive Caucus,” Congressman Frank does not seem to appreciate the mathematical difference between a billion and a trillion. He too has called for new federal spending in the area of $1.8 trillion.
Financial Services, in conjunction with the Senate Banking Committee, has attempted to enact reform of two of the most powerful Government Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Progress toward this goal under GOP control can be described as piecemeal at best, and retrenchment at worst. All the while, however, Congressman Frank has shown little inclination to leash these taxpayer-supported Leviathans.
These Congressmen represent a form of old school “Great Society” groupthink that would (under a liberal President) assuredly result in major increases in marginal income, dividend, and capital gains tax rates. Given the Federal Reserve Board’s recent finding that $4 trillion of household wealth has been created since the enactment of President Bush’s dividend and capital gains tax cuts, the American economy (and the American taxpayer) can ill afford a reversal in low-tax policies.
If GOP House leaders fail to roll back the largest federal government expansion since Lyndon Johnson and thereby allow a Democratic takeover next November, fiscally-moderate Democrats like the “Blue Dogs” could be a rare breed in key committee posts. Instead, taxpayers would be faced with as many as nine committees (Education and Workforce, Financial Services, Government Reform, Homeland Security, International Relations, Judiciary, Rules, Small Business, and Veterans’ Affairs) controlled by Progressive Caucus members who have publicly stated their fanatical desire for higher taxes, more trade barriers, limits on political speech, government-imposed wages, and socialized health care. And of course, a former caucus member, Nancy Pelosi (NTU rating: 8%), will lead them all. If liberals can demand positive results from their leaders, why shouldn’t conservatives?