John Feehery: A long two years

John Feehery: A long two years
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It’s going to be a long two years.

We all knew that the new Republican majority and the president had vastly different opinions on issues like taxes, spending and healthcare. 

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But since the elections, the president has sent a pretty clear message that he has no interest in moving to the middle. In fact, on three big issues (immigration, climate change and net neutrality) he is moving rapidly to the left. 

On immigration, he plans on providing legal status to as many as 5 million immigrants in the country illegally, the biggest executive order of its kind in history. 

The president also knows Republicans will be angered by his decision to cut a deal with the Chinese on climate change. The deal, which requires America to reduce CO2 emissions by 28 percent by 2025, has no such requirement for what will soon be the world’s largest economy. It’s a bad deal, and the president knows it. 

President Obama big-footed his Federal Communications Commission chairman on the issue of net neutrality as well. It’s a complicated issue, and Tom Wheeler has been struggling to come up with the right approach. But the president weighed in by taking the side of netizens on the left, throwing the whole process into a state of confusion. 

Now, Republicans who had planned to spend the bulk of their time focusing on ObamaCare are confronted with this barrage of inflammatory issues to address. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE (Texas) linked the president’s comment on net neutrality with ObamaCare. Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBreaking the impasse on shutdown, border security McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (Ohio) said the president was going to burn himself with his immigration decision. Senate Majority Leader for the 114th Congress Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Senate GOP eyes 'nuclear option' for Trump nominees next week Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress MORE (Ky.) said he was ready “to go to war” with Obama on his climate change deal. 

The president’s blitzkrieg has put Republicans on the defensive, putting them off stride, making them angry and agitated. The president must be stopped, some conservatives say. Maybe we should shut the government down again?

This is the time for clear thinking, not for over-reaction. 

The president hasn’t even issued his immigration order yet. The climate change deal is a joke. The head of the FCC is nowhere near making a final decision. 

What Republicans need is a two-year plan.

That plan should keep these issues alive in a way to best advantage the Republicans. It should include oversight hearings, reports and investigations. Who pays for the illegal immigrants’ housing? Do they qualify for ObamaCare? Will the feds pay for their schooling? Why should the Chinese get a break on emissions? How many American jobs does that cost? 

There should be some test votes on the propositions as well. Do we really want to be saddled with a slower Internet? Do you think the president should give 5 million people amnesty? Are you for coal or are you against it? I bet you some Republican senators in blue states would love to have some votes like that. 

Once we have the hearings and the test votes, maybe then we can attach some riders to appropriations bills. Sprinkle them throughout all 12 spending bills. Get Democrats on record voting with the Republicans, all the while making the case that the president is out of step with the mainstream of the American people.  

This is called regular order, and if done correctly, it can be relentless. Instead of legislating through crisis, through government shutdowns and debt-limit standoffs, Republicans should use this opportunity to show the president how Congress can actually work, how it can push its issues, how it can frame debates, how it can put the White House on the defensive. 

It’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of planning, but it can be done. 

It will be a long two years. Republicans should make sure they are especially long for the president and his team. 

Feehery is president of QGA Public Affairs and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as speechwriter to former Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).