- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When Edward J. (Ed) Feulner Jr., long-time president of the Heritage Foundation, and I organized what now is known as the Republican Study Committee (RSC) 35 years ago, the Republican leadership in the House was either liberal (John Anderson) or nonconfrontational (Robert Michel).

Aggressive conservatives were shut out of the leadership. We then were confronted by the Democratic Study Group (DSG), which was seeking a place in the Democratic leadership. These were the days of John McCormack, Massachusetts Democrat, and Carl Albert, Oklahoma Democrat, who went along to get along.

Today, of course the DSG types dominate the House Democratic leadership. There is no moderate-to-conservative Democrat in the leadership. Likewise, RSC types dominate the Republican leadership. There are clear differences between the parties in the House.

One of the things Ed Feulner and I urged conservatives in the House to do was to adduce an agenda of their own. Indeed, along the years they did so. Whether we are talking about Jack Kemp’s tax cuts or Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the Republicans did have an agenda separate from the official leadership.

After Republicans became the majority party for the first time in 40 years, conservatives left it up to the official leadership to come up with an agenda. At first that worked fine. but by the time 2006 rolled around there was no real agenda except to retain the majority. House Republicans were adrift.

Not so anymore. The Republican Study Committee, under the able leadership of Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, has proposed an eight-point agenda that they hope to have voted on before the present 110th Congress adjourns. The problem, of course, is they are no longer in the majority. The Democrats set the agenda, and they are unlikely to permit votes on most of these issues.

The one that probably resonates most around the nation is a moratorium on earmarks. The public is really sold on the idea that earmarks represent pork-barrel spending. In that connection, RCS has proposed limiting federal taxing and spending to what middle-class families can afford.

Not surprising, RSC is proposing a simple tax code that Americans can understand. I take that proposal less seriously since every party in every election in my memory has promised the same thing and yet the tax code becomes more complex.

The RSC agenda includes a family-focused, patient-centered health-care system. That yet might be doable since our health-care system has not been given over completely to the socialists.

The agenda also calls for energy independence through increased exploration. Congress has been beating up on oil companies because of high gasoline prices. Some energy companies bravely have pointed out it is Congress that has prevented exploration. We have more than enough oil. We simply have not been permitted to drill for it.

Mr. Hensarling, in announcing the agenda, called for developing a legal framework which allows the United States to prevent terrorist attacks.

Social-issue conservatives are attracted to the provision for a moral approach to parental protection and education of children. This includes parental notification where minors want an abortion and parental control over the family’s personal educational decisions.

Finally, RSC calls for a welfare safety net that fosters work and marriage. Work requirements would be extended to food stamps and housing and encouraging parents to marry so their children can be reared in two-parent homes.

This agenda probably has somewhere between 70 percent to 80 percent support in the country. But school prayer always had that kind of percentage and there has only been one vote in the last 45 years.

One can hope now that the official House Republican leadership will adopt and push this agenda. These issues are far better than anything we have heard out of Congress for several years.

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