Judd Gregg: Last chance for congressional GOP

Judd Gregg: Last chance for congressional GOP
© Greg Nash

It really does not matter whether Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE are nominated for president by the Republicans. Either choice will lead to a disastrous result in November.

This is a guess, of course, in a time when predicting anything is a precarious endeavor. 

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Still, it is difficult to imagine a result with either candidate that does not amount to a wiping of the political map. A devastating defeat for the nominee in November is near-certain, a loss of control of the Senate is likely and even a similar loss in the House is possible. 

There is a silver lining to this heavy cloud, however. Political parties all too often delay real political action because the landscape after the next election will supposedly be more favorable. 

Republicans, especially in the Senate, have been prone to this kind of political procrastination recently. But whichever party is in control, the end result is usually the same: tough choices are moved to the far side of a two-year horizon. And that horizon is always moving out another two years.

The time has come to end this pattern.

With the likelihood — in fact, the near-certainty — that the Republican Party is going to nominate a candidate for president who represents the functional equivalent of self-immolation, there is no over-the-horizon option; no after-the-next-election excuse.

The time is now.

This Congress, which will most likely be the last Republican Congress for some time, needs to use its majorities to lay down significant conservative policy markers. 

If it does so correctly, a couple of these proposals might even make it to the president’s desk. There they will be vetoed, but at least they will have been put on the record — and into prominent public view.

These markers will also give Republicans a basis for rebuilding the party on strong, clear policies in the “post-Donald” or “post-Ted” period of resurrection.

The first of these initiatives should be major tax reform passed by both Houses, now.   

There is consensus here on several basic but important principles. There should be lower rates, counterbalanced with fewer deductions. The doers in our society should be given a reason to go out and do. The tax code should be used to incentivize investment, which will then lead to a better economy and more jobs. 

This is a great debate for Republicans to initiate.   

Yes, it does mean aggravating the interests that depend on the deductions and exemptions that are going to be cut back. But so what? Pick some fights. Do the right thing on policy and you win the fights.   

Pass real healthcare reform. Do not bother to repeal ObamaCare. This course has already been tried. Instead, do a substantive health reform package. Base it on the idea of insuring everyone for catastrophic events while allowing people to use health saving accounts, or HSAs, and other vehicles to cover their everyday health costs. 

Create a system that encourages healthy lifestyles, quality outcomes at lower costs, and gives people reasons to make good choices in buying their care.

Fix the social security disability system so that fraud and waste are dramatically reduced.

Fix the VA system so veterans have choices about where they get their care. 

Fund the intelligence services aggressively so we can find the Islamic fundamentalists who wish to do us harm and reorient the military establishment to fight this fight without outdated Cold War thinking.

The clock is running out. The campaigns are upon us. But an aggressive five-day-a-week schedule from now until the end of June should allow for the Congress to push out all these ideas and more.   

It will require leadership from the leadership — a defining of the path and an aggressive sticking to it so that legislation can be pushed through. 

Unfortunately, after December, Republicans in Congress will most likely have a lot of time to sit around and muse. 

A little extra lifting right now should be acceptable.  

Or to put it another way: This is your last chance, folks. Take it.

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.