Judd Gregg: A positive agenda for a GOP Congress

Judd Gregg: A positive agenda for a GOP Congress
© Greg Nash

It looks pretty good for us Republicans.

We will definitely keep control of the House, and the tide in the Senate is moving strongly in our direction.

ADVERTISEMENT
A shift of as many as eight seats in the upper chamber is possible. Only six are needed.

This is actually not so unusual for the Senate. When the majority in the Senate has shifted over the past two decades, it has typically done so suddenly, with groups of five or more seats changing hands. This appears to be another of those shift years.

If the GOP controls both houses, Republicans need a plan of action.

The key point is that the plan should display, very clearly and beyond any doubt, that the Republican Congress plans to govern. This could be done in the following manner.

First, a set of initiatives should be agreed upon. They should be simple, clear and built around a basic theme. It might be called: “The Agenda For Jobs and Opportunity.”

The second immediate goal should involve the passage of a number of small but doable bills that give structure to the agenda in the first 50 days of the Congress. One or two of the major proposals should be passed before President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.

Third, the agenda should not be framed in a negative way. It should not be seen as an attack on the president. Rather, it should be structured primarily in the positive, reflecting a desire to lead the nation in a constructive, fiscally conservative way.

It should be built around promoting individual rights, small businesses, entrepreneurship, economic growth and national security.

To the extent it aims at dismantling ObamaCare, it should do so by replacing the parts it repeals with things that will make the system work better. Whatever changes are made should improve things for more Americans by giving them more choices, less regulations and a better, outcomes-based system.

The specifics of the agenda could include:

1. An initial, relatively modest tax reform agenda and a more extensive one later. The first reform should renew the capital gains and dividend rates at 15 percent to incentivize capital reinvestment and benefit pension funds that hold equities.

This should be coupled with corporate tax reform that brings us more closely into line with our competitors in the developed world. Such reforms should also allow American companies to return their overseas profits to the United States, facilitating more investments and job creation here.

2. Education initiatives that promote the use of the Internet to expand access to education, boost charter schools, encourage the development of skills needed in a technology-based society and correct the obvious failures of the present student loan and Pell Grant system.

3. Immigration reform that, at a minimum, secures the borders, penalizes employers who exploit illegal immigrants and shifts us to a Canadian-type system where people who have skills that add value to our economy are encouraged to come here.

4. A reordering of the funding of the military, intelligence service and the Foreign Service to focus on fighting the terrorist threat effectively.

5. A program that formally reviews the impact of regulations across the government on small businesses and entrepreneurs.

6. Healthcare reform that moves us to a system that is outcomes-based and corrects some of the most egregious failures of ObamaCare.

One key element of this undertaking will be the passage of the budget. This, in turn, will deliver two benefits.

Firstly, it will show that Republicans are serious about getting our fiscal house in order.

Secondly, reconciliation should be aggressively used, as it was used by the Democrats when they passed ObamaCare, to accomplish tax reform and positive entitlement changes.

The incoming chairmen of the key committees in the Senate and the House should be meeting now with the leadership teams.

If the next Congress is Republican, it is critical that the American people should see a defined, positive message from day one. A Republican Congress has to have a plan, and it has to act on that plan promptly.

The alternative is a situation in which Republicans on Capitol Hill are seen to be using the levers of power to seek retribution for what they perceive as the sins of the last six years.

A Republican Congress must create the first impression that it is there to govern. The American people will get the message: Something good may happen in Washington when the Congress goes Republican.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.