To many conservatives, this Congress is not worth saving. Some even say, as Richard Viguerie wrote in the Washington Monthly, a Republican loss this year could lead to “a rebirth of the conservative movement.”
National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru decries the current predicament of House Republican leaders who suffer from “the obligation of cobbling together thin majorities for watered-down legislation.” Far better, he concludes, for them to endure “a few years in the wilderness.” Such an experience would leave them more disposed to use their power “for conservative ends.”
Conservatives are right to be aghast at the way supposedly conservative lawmakers have spent money—especially on pork-barrel projects. Pork corrupts one’s understanding of the proper, limited role of government. Consider this political ad being aired by one otherwise conservative House member:
“Working together we’ve expanded the airport, which is supporting thousands of new jobs … We funded more after-school reading and jobs programs across our community. Working together, we’ve won millions of dollars to build and expand our local parks and our waterfront. We’ve helped global and local police forces to get the computers and the equipment they need to fight crime and make us safer … We’re building a new veterans’ hospital … It’s a $600-million investment, one of the largest veterans’ projects in the country.”
Such federal support (for activities traditionally left to state and local government), the ad concludes, has made this congressional district “a better place to live, work and raise our family.” Sadly, other embattled conservative incumbents are airing similar ads.
But imagine what conservatives would be saying today if a number of bills adopted by the House of Representatives this year had survived the legislative killing fields in the Senate and become law. The country would be enjoying:
- Permanent repeal of the death tax;
- The opening up of ANWR and the offshore fields in the Gulf of Mexico and along our Eastern and Western seaboards to oil and natural gas drilling;
- An end to regulatory roadblocks that have prevented the construction of new oil refineries for more than 30 years;
- A limit on the ability of environmentalists to use the Endangered Species Act to block development projects and prohibit legal use of privately owned land;
- The UN reform bill championed by retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.), which would have required that hapless organization to adopt some 30 commonsense financial and operational reforms or lose half of its U.S.-taxpayer contribution;
- The line-item veto;
- Legal reforms to rein in the out-of-control trial bar such as the ban on obesity lawsuits against the food industry and a loser-pays rule for certain suits brought against small businesses;
- Legislation that secures our borders and the Real ID Act that gives law enforcement authorities a reliable way to enforce immigration laws and identify potential terrorists; and
- A limit to the harmful assault on property owners as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London.
None of these House-passed bills became law. Each failed, is currently bottled up or never saw the light of day in the Senate. The House, despite its obsession with pork, may be worth saving after all.
House Republicans must point to this “agenda that could have been,” and remind their base of complacent voters what a cadre of new House Democratic chairmen would do in its stead.
Imagine Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.), Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D.-Mich.), Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D.-Mich.), Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) and House Intelligence Chairman Alcee Hastings (D.-Fla.), a former district court judge removed from the federal bench by Congress in the late 1980s amidst charges of lying and bribery.
Conservatives should devote more attention to the dysfunctional Senate.
Liberals there swat down good legislation by forming alliances with between six and nine moderates. They’ve built left-of-center legislative walls on many important issues (think immigration reform). A liberal makeover of the House will only move that wall further to the left and result in steady flow of harmful bills.
Under this scenario, the President would finally use his veto pen as the Founders intended. But many of the bills inevitably will be tough calls, containing a tempting, but toxic, brew of both good and bad provisions. The Senate’s amnesty-laden immigration reform measure, for example, would surely become law.
The real solution is to send more conservatives to Capitol Hill.