Top 10 Goals for Lame-Duck Congress

Battered Republicans and triumphant Democrats meet today to launch a lame-duck congressional session that should adjourn by Christmas. While they still can, Republicans should employ their House and Senate majorities to enact these pro-market, limited government initiatives that they failed to deliver before the mid-term elections:

1) Most important, President Bush’s tax cuts, now scheduled to expire in 2010, should be made permanent. Even if supply-side Republicans do this after recapturing Congress and keeping the White House in 2008, the next two years of uncertainty will confuse financial markets and potentially erode economic growth.

2) According to opinion polls, some 70% of Americans want the Death Tax killed and buried for good. Get on with the funeral.

3) The IRS’ 1040 form should include a new Higher-Rate-Optional Tax. The HOT Tax would let any American who hates tax cuts indicate whatever tax rate he prefers to pay above his assigned bracket. Liberals who say they don’t want tax cuts could avoid them and, instead, send Treasury even more of their money.

4) Congress should enact portable, individual, universal Health Savings Accounts. Coupled with high-deductible insurance, Republicans finally could answer Democratic complaints about 40 million Americans without coverage. Congress also should adopt a measure by Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) that would let Americans purchase medical insurance anywhere in America, not just from carriers licensed to sell policies in their own states. If Americans can buy home mortgages and fire insurance across state lines, they should have the same freedom to shop nationwide for health coverage.

5) By a 376-38 vote, the House passed a bill to bar federal funding from construction projects in which private property has been confiscated through eminent domain and awarded to private interests for private benefit. Even left-wing diehard Rep. Maxine Waters (D.-Calif.) supported this measure. Maddeningly, it has languished in Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R.-Pa.) Judiciary Committee for a year. It should be dislodged, approved, and signed by the president.

6) Congress should endorse Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R.-S.C.) proposal to prohibit Americans from serving as dockworkers if they have been convicted of violent felonies such as conspiracy, explosives trafficking, and homicide. Airport security personnel may not have such rap sheets. The same should apply to longshoremen, lest such convicted felons give aid and comfort to those who might wish to import, say, a dirty bomb onto a pier and into a waiting Ryder truck.

7) The Senate should pass the Federal Election Integrity Act, which cleared the House 228-196 on September 20. It would require voters to show valid, government-issued photo identification beginning with the November 2008 presidential election. By the 2010 mid-term congressional elections, voters must display photo ID that proves American citizenship. Presenting photo ID to vote is no more burdensome than doing so to board passenger jets. This simple rule will discourage vote fraud and make it tougher for dead people to cast ballots.

8) The Senate promptly should confirm Robert Gates’ nomination as Pentagon chief. America’s enemies should not regard the Defense Department as adrift between secretaries.

9) Likewise, UN Ambassador John Bolton should have his recess appointment extended into full confirmation. Bolton is busy finding diplomatic means to keep Iran and North Korea from becoming nuclear powers. The Senate should assist him in this vital effort, as well as the rest of his duties in the world body. Step one is to strengthen his hand by extending his tenure until Bush’s departure.

10) Twenty-nine of Bush’s judicial nominees are pending. The Senate should work overtime to move as many of them as possible from this purgatory onto the bench.

Most of these initiatives would pass more easily in the House (or already have) than in the filibuster-happy Senate. Nevertheless, Republicans might as well try to push through such legislation while they still control Capitol Hill’s agenda.

If GOP-led lame ducks send most of these items to President Bush for signature, they will remind voters of the kinds of policies Republicans are supposed to implement, and might again, if voters return them to power in 2008. Ironically, if Republican representatives and senators had accomplished more of these things in the first place, voters on Tuesday might not have banished them to minority status.