- - Thursday, January 7, 2016

As House Republicans prepare to gather next week in Baltimore for their annual policy/legislative strategy retreat, Speaker Paul Ryan has made clear he wants to use the second session of the 114th Congress to lay out an agenda for what he calls a “confident America,” a campaign vision that unifies the Conservative Movement, the Republican Party, and, in fact, all of America.

Given the precipitous drop in his own favorability ratings among self-identified Republicans in a series of Economist/YouGov polls over the last two months - from a remarkable 69/15 favorable/unfavorable (+54) rating on November 7 to a barely-above-water 46/32 (+14) rating following passage of the atrocious omnibus spending bill - Mr. Ryan would do well to begin by repairing the early breach with his party’s core constituents.

Though we at Tea Party Patriots were terribly disappointed by the content of the omnibus spending bill, we nevertheless share his goal of a legislative agenda that works across partisan and ideological lines, and have worked over the last year to create just such a plan. After months of research - including reaching out to allies in the Congress, in state legislatures, in other outside groups, and our own supporters, followed by multiple national surveys - several months ago we launched our Yellow Card Project, which features seven key federal issues, all but two of which are supported by at least 77 percent of likely voters. As Mr. Ryan looks to craft a winning agenda of big-ticket items for a “confident America,” our Yellow Card issues would be a good place to start.

So, what are the seven Yellow Card issues?

First up, the two issues that fall short of the 77 percent threshold (but each of which, nevertheless, garners 60 percent support among all likely voters, and far greater support among Republicans and Independents): Repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and across-the-board tax reform that creates a system that’s simpler, fairer and flatter, with lower rates across the board.

Certainly, despite the fact that these issues earn “only” 60 percent support, they will be part of any comprehensive GOP agenda for the future - repealing ObamaCare earns 87 percent support from Republicans, and 95 percent support from Tea Party supporters, while a simpler, fairer, flatter tax system earns the support of 70 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Tea Party supporters.

The third agenda item: Repealing Congress’ special exemption from ObamaCare. The text of the Affordable Care Act makes clear that members of Congress and their staffs are required to give up their generous taxpayer-funded health benefits, and instead purchase their insurance through the exchanges, just like every other American who purchases insurance through an ObamaCare exchange. But Congress fraudulently declared itself a “small business” so its members and staff could keep the gravy train chugging along. Fully 88 percent of likely voters - and 94 percent of Republicans, and 98 percent of Tea Party supporters - want to see this special exemption repealed.

Next: The Penny Plan, a budget construct that simply requires the federal government to spend one penny less out of each dollar spent every year for the next five years. This simple idea - already backed by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi - offers a way to balance the federal budget within five years. Across all likely voters, it earns 78 percent support; among Republicans, 88 percent support; among Tea Party supporters, a remarkable 94 percent support.

The fifth item on the agenda: Term limits for members of Congress. Even in the so-called “wave” election years of 2010 and 2014, with huge and historic congressional turnovers, upwards of 80 percent of incumbents running for re-election won; in more regular years, that number surpasses 95 percent. Not surprisingly, term limits remain popular among voters. Our survey research showed 77 percent of all likely voters support them, with that number rising to 85 percent among Republicans, and 90 percent among Tea Party supporters.

Sixth: Breaking the link between federal funding and implementation of the Common Core educational standards at the state level. The overwhelming majority of likely voters - 78 percent, to be exact - support this, as do 93 percent of Republicans and a whopping 98 percent of Tea Party supporters.

The final issue? Securing our borders via implementation of a biometric entrance/exit visa tracking system. Nearly two decades ago, Congress passed a law requiring the federal government to develop a system for tracking visitors who overstayed their visas, and years later, the 9/11 Commission recommended that the Department of Homeland Security develop and implement such a system “as soon as possible.” But in a recent congressional hearing, the Homeland Security Department’s Assistant Secretary for International Affairs could not tell an inquiring congressman just how many people in the United States had overstayed their visas. In an era when our enemies are trying to game our lax immigration controls to gain entry and stay to do us harm, not knowing with certainty who’s here and where they are is just not acceptable. Not surprisingly, this item earned the support of 88 percent of all likely voters, 93 percent support from Republicans, and 98 percent from Tea Party supporters.

As I’ve traveled the nation over these last several months, I’ve found great support for these issues among the grassroots. They recognize we’ve got big problems, and want to find big solutions. But big solutions don’t have to be complex; sometimes, they’re the simple things - like spending a little less money each year when you’re struggling to get out of debt, and treating members of Congress like regular citizens, and creating a tax system that rewards savings and encourages investment, and getting the federal government out of the education business, and deploying a simple but effective means to track foreign visitors and make sure they leave when the law requires.

If Mr. Ryan is serious about crafting an agenda for a “confident America,” I’m confident our Yellow Card issues would be a good place to start.

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