- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ohio Republican Rep. John A. Boehner, presumptive speaker for the 112th Congress, ought to thank the Tea Party for handing him an electoral win larger than any other in recent memory. The best way to do so would be to engineer a few short-term public-policy victories that quickly would showcase the difference new House management can make.

Republicans understood this well after their 1994 success at the ballot box. One of the first concrete wins for that new majority was the repeal of the reviled 55 mph national maximum speed limit. This one-size-fits-all regulation encapsulated everything wrong with government. Imposed in 1974 in the name of energy conservation, the “Double Nickel” was widely ignored. As a result, it didn’t save a drop of oil. Bureaucrats latched onto it anyway because they love to centralize control over other people’s lives. Its repeal in 1995, over the objection of then-President Clinton, highlighted a philosophical difference between the parties in a way that millions could see on a daily basis.

What better way for Mr. Boehner to demonstrate his commitment to change than by repealing equally pointless nanny-state “energy conservation” regulations enacted under his predecessor? Unless Congress acts, Thomas Edison’s greatest invention - the standard old light bulb - will become contraband in 2012, and American homes will be haunted by the pallor of deadly, mercury-filled fluorescent fixtures. Like so many “green” laws, this measure is corporate welfare for some manufacturers who stand to enjoy a tidy profit when the government forces the public to buy the more expensive curlicue bulbs.

Along the same lines, the GOP needs to repeal the foolish ban on high-flow toilets and functional shower heads. Past Congresses thought that by passing a law forcing Americans to use commodes designed by bureaucrats, water savings would magically appear. The reality is that Americans ended up flushing more often, using the same amount of water - or more. Again, liberal lawmakers care more about maintaining feel-good measures they can claim show they are “doing something” than ensuring that their rules are effective or necessary.

To be sure, there are a lot of big-ticket items that are higher priorities, from repealing Obamacare to extending the Bush tax cuts to reforming entitlements. These more important issues will require correspondingly greater time and effort. Mr. Boehner’s most important task, bringing spending under control, will be the most difficult. A Democratic showdown is inevitable should Republicans attempt to honestly balance the books, which can be done by limiting the government to the size it was just five short years ago. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich tried, and lost, a similar showdown during a time of relative economic prosperity. This time, however, it is unclear whether Americans - many of whom have seen their paychecks cut back to 2005 levels - will agree with Democrats that it’s the end of the world to force the feds to live under fiscal 2005 budget levels.

Reducing the nation’s $13.7 trillion debt load represents a long-term fight. By also showing an equal commitment to change in the short term, Mr. Boehner would ensure a bright new future for his party as it heads into the critical 2012 election cycle.