- - Thursday, October 16, 2014


Forget Nov. 4. Let’s talk about Nov. 5.

All the signs point to a very good day for the Republicans when Americans go to the polls in the midterm elections next month. With the president so unpopular and a slew of good candidates on the ballot, the GOP will pick up seats in both the House and Senate, and will very likely hold the majority in both chambers for the next two years.

That’s all the more reason for the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill to focus on the day after Election Day, to start planning — now — for what’s to come. Even before the votes are counted, Republicans should be game-planning for 2015. The success or failure of the party heading into the 2016 presidential vote could be determined by the decisions Republicans make right now.

The president and his administration — whose incompetence and cluelessness have been on stark display once again with the fumblings of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention and the National Institutes of Health in the face of the Ebola outbreak — will obviously try to get a few last priorities through in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, before the new Republican majorities can be seated.

My advice to the GOP leaders is simple: Don’t do it. Don’t agree to a lame-duck session that can only focus on the president’s priorities and agenda. Yes, the president has the power to call Congress back into session, but that doesn’t mean the Congress has to participate. For Republicans, November and December could be spent much more productively identifying the issues and bills to pass in next two years.

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A clear strategy is needed because even with a Congress run by Republicans, President Obama will remain a formidable force. He has already made abundantly clear his willingness to go around Congress and the Constitution with executive orders, on issues ranging from environmental regulation to immigration. A lame-duck session would amount to a massive distraction from the job American voters want the government to do, and Republicans should have no part of it.

And there is a real agenda to be built in the next two years. All the bills to roll back regulations, help small businesses and jump-start the economy that the House GOP has passed the past two years have simply piled up on Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s desk, getting no attention from the Senate.

With the power of the purse, the Congress can get started on the process of defunding Mr. Obama’s executive orders, reining in the out-of-control EPA regulators, taking on the president’s out-of-control spending habits, getting the Keystone XL pipeline built and trying to help America’s businesses grow and create jobs, instead of doing everything we can to discourage them.

I know there’s an argument that this would be a waste of time, that the bills that died on Harry Reid’s desk will now just die on the desk of the president, with Republicans unable to override White House vetoes. But that’s the wrong attitude to take.

First, two years of Republicans proposing and the president rejecting can only spur the national debate that is badly needed about the direction of our country. Those of us concerned about the state of country, about the headlines on falling wages, unchecked diseases, foreign policy failures and declining respect for traditional values and institutions, should absolutely welcome this debate. It will also serve to lay down some powerful conservative markers as voters prepare for the 2016 presidential battles.

And I have a little experience with a Democratic president trying to stand in the way of a Republican Congress.

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That’s what we faced in the 1990s when President Clinton tried to thwart the conservative agenda we championed in Congress. Mr. Clinton tries to claim credit for the prosperity and policy successes of that time now, but the fact is that he did not sign one significant bill in the last six years of his presidency that he originated.

Instead, we would pass bills that he would regularly veto. We would send them up again, get more vetoes but eventually wear him down. That’s how the country got major welfare reform and a balanced budget measure that led to the first federal surpluses in decades.

The blueprint still works. There is much to be done. Republicans need a strategy. And the time to plan is now.

Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and www.washingtontimes.com.

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