- - Saturday, December 18, 2021

We are likely going to suffer through a year of triumphalism among some Republicans in anticipation of the party winning control of the House and probably the Senate in November. Some of that is warranted; if you project the results in Virginia nationwide, it looks like the Republicans should net between 40 and 50 seats in the House.

It also is likely that with competitive races for Democrat-held seats in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire, the Republicans will find the one Senate seat they need to preside over the Senate (although some of the potential Republican Senate nominees may decrease the odds a bit).

Will Republican control of Congress be a good thing? That probably depends on whether congressional Republicans are ready to present and press for alternatives to the policies of the Democrats.

We all watched the recent debt ceiling increase, in which Republican leadership in the Senate did not merely allow but actually created the pathway for the Democrats to increase the debt ceiling without any legislative friction. That could be an uncomfortable preview of the coming year and the years after that.

Congressional Republicans, especially those in the Senate, appear to be much more concerned about having the majority than they are about doing anything with the majority. Senate Republican leadership has already said that it has no intention of providing any clarity concerning its policy preferences if it presides over the Senate.

In the absence of affirmative messages, Republicans, who could not be bothered to construct a platform in 2020, nor execute any formal assessment as to why they lost in 2020, may default to being opposed to whatever the other side is doing. That would be unfortunate. Team Biden will turn that negativity against Republicans in 2024.

Remember that former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama managed to win reelection after terrible midterm losses by using congressional Republicans as foils.

Some don’t seem to understand that the time is over when just being in charge was enough. Voters, especially Republican voters, expect genuine efforts to push back against the prevailing regime and promote an agenda focused on something (security, prosperity, freedom, whatever).

Nor should the current composition of Congress encourage much optimism. The current generation of media stars are often those least able to shepherd a coherent thought, let alone a coherent ideology or a coherent legislative program.

Fortunately, there is hope, especially in the House. There, several lawmakers, most notably Rep. Gary Palmer from Alabama, chair of the Republican Policy Committee, and Rep. Jim Banks from Indiana, chair of the House Republican Study Committee, are focused on positive alternatives to those being pursued by Team Biden and the progressives.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Mr. Palmer recently, and he shared his vision for defining policy differences between Republicans and Democrats. Mr. Palmer is a bit of a policy polymath; he switched seamlessly among topics including China, law enforcement, border security, history and health care. His responses and approaches were invariably grounded in data and facts.

He believes, rightly, that Republicans need to focus on national security (China, immigration), local security (think crime), personal security (data, health care) and the many and varied ways in which the current regime has compromised all three. His approaches are built on enhancing the freedom and responsibility of the individual rather than the power and authority of the state.

Those who care about such things should watch Mr. Palmer and his allies closely and expect more expansive and granular explications of his and their ideas soon.

The good news for the republic is that there are still members like Mr. Palmer, who can weave facts, data and principles through thoughtful deliberation into meaningful and winning legislative proposals and, eventually, into useful and productive laws.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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