- - Sunday, November 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Congressional lethargy and inaction in the wake of the Republican wave of 2010 is not the fault of the Republicans, no matter how loud the cries of frustrated liberals. Over the course of the current Congress, the House of Representatives passed nearly 350 bills, only to see them die in Harry Reid’s Senate. Some of them surely deserved death, but not all.

Mercifully, the curtain is soon to ring down on Sen. Reid’s circus of stall and gridlock. Republicans will soon be empowered to adopt a number of much-needed reforms that will point Congress in the right direction.

In preparation for the 114th Congress beginning in January, the leaders in the House and the Senate must focus on four priorities to demonstrate they can get things moving at last: Improve the federal tax structure, implement regulatory reform, overhaul the Telecommunications Act and revamp the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Before the doors are closed on the current Congress, the lame ducks are expected to enact another extension of the tax breaks soon to expire. Congressional approval of an annual “tax extenders” package has become an untenable and costly exercise, and it doesn’t have to be. The next Congress should close down this annual exercise and make comprehensive reforms to U.S. tax policy, which would cut taxes for everyone, close loopholes and eliminate “favors” that make calculating and filing taxes such an annual headache.

Reducing the federal regulatory burden on America’s businesses is a priority with broad bipartisan support that would set a unifying theme for the 114th Congress. At last count there were more than 3,300 new rules and regulations awaiting implementation. Often these rules overlap and are ultimately implemented in contradiction to rules already on the books. Small businesses and not-so-small manufacturers alike are required to spend valuable resources of time, money and energy to keep up with the growing complexity of the federal regulatory system, rather than investing that time, money and energy into something productive. Since members on both sides of the congressional aisle agree that regulatory inefficiency hampers economic development, the new Congress will have a rare opportunity to achieve regulatory reform.

Beyond tax and regulatory reform, the outdated Telecom Act should be another top priority. The Act was written in 1934 and last updated in 1996 and cannot reflect the needs of modern technology. Republicans have a unique bipartisan opportunity to cast a wide net and revamp the laws governing one of the most promising economic sectors. Policies should be developed from perspectives that balance consumer protection, innovation and competition, enabling innovators and entrepreneurs to make new and profitable choices.

America is producing energy at a remarkable rate. This reduces dependence on foreign oil and establishes the United States as a dominate force in the energy marketplace. With the proper infrastructure in place, America could be accomplishing even more. Most of the many miles of pipeline do not connect the places where this incredible growth is taking place. Pipelines are the safest, least expensive and most efficient means of moving energy resources along to consumers. More pipelines would mean more energy income. The Keystone XL pipeline is the most recognizable project, but not the only proposed pipeline that the new Congress could push along with state-of-the-art capacity and efficiency.

Enactment of these priorities would take the momentum of the 2014 elections into the presidential campaign of 2016. It’s both possible and necessary. It’s important never to let momentum go to waste.


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