- - Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The recent election results and a slew of survey data suggest that the Republicans will take control over the House in 2022.  The Senate map is also now advantageous for the Republicans, and it seems reasonable to believe that the Republicans will preside over the Senate and the House in 2023.

Consequently, there is a lot of premature and perhaps misplaced triumphalism among Republicans.

There is a very real possibility that if Republicans control the House and preside over the Senate, not much might change other than enhanced and probably vindictive oversight of the Biden administration.

The simple and terrible truth is that as of this moment, the Republicans have no plans – and no plans to make plans – concerning the policies they might pursue if voters put them in charge.

Keep in mind that the party (at the behest of its presidential nominee) embarrassingly passed on creating a platform during the 2020 campaign.  President Donald Trump’s operatives now run most of the Republican institutional architecture and, like the former president, prefer to play each day as it comes rather than having plans to pursue specific policy goals.

Let’s look at two quick examples of the consequences of such an approach.

First, congressional Republicans are trying to figure out whether and why they might oppose the “drug pricing reforms” proposed by team Biden.  This is a bit of a running problem, in part because Republicans keep thinking about it and talking about it as “drug pricing reform” instead of “the imposition of federal price controls” that will crush innovation and the development of new drugs and consequently kill thousands of people.

Second, in a last-minute attempt to blunt the effect of Republican electoral victories, a batch of Republican Senators announced on Election Day (!) that they had some “answers” for climate change.  One of those was setting a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 40% by 2050.  It’s tough to argue against setting meaningless and possibly destructive goals and then set your own meaningless and possibly destructive goals.

If the Republicans can’t get the message or policy right on two legacy issues for which they have had 30 years to prepare, it’s not likely that much else will go right if they are suddenly tossed the keys to the car.

It is also worth noting that the leadership of the Congress and the rank and file are two very different animals.  Think about the “infrastructure” legislation for a moment.  The 19 Republicans who voted for it in the Senate included the minority leader and the ranking members of the Environment and Public Works, Foreign Relations, Finance, Commerce, Budget, and Judiciary committees.

In comparison, most of the 31 Republican Senators who did the right thing concerning the infrastructure vote are junior folks in the caucus.

On the House side, much of leadership is to the left of the Republican caucus. Concerning the embarrassing loss on infrastructure, some in leadership specifically and perhaps intentionally took no action to keep the caucus together on the ultimate vote.

It is not exactly a recipe for harmony and progress when the “leaders” are pointed in one direction, and those they are supposed to be leading are pointed in another.

There may be good news, however.  At the end of June, the House minority leader announced the creation of task forces to develop policy solutions to the issues facing the American people.

From the press release:  “When Republicans retake the majority, we will come prepared to implement policies that will actually solve problems and improve people’s lives… .  These task forces will be critical in building consensus around ideas to … ensure that the next century is an American one.”

Ignore the implicit totalitarianism associated with the idea that Congress has much to do with whether the next century will be an American one.  Also, ignore that the next century will be the 22nd century, not the 21st century.  Also, ignore the question of why we have committees if we are going to do this task force thing.

The critical part of the story is that we’re still waiting around to hear back on these task forces five months later.  Forget about making the next century an American one. How about if we just finish our homework on time?

If they do take majorities in Congress, the Republicans need to be prepared to sell conservative solutions to the problems we face and not waste time on payback for slights real or imagined. Before the hype really gets going, though, people should reset and resize their expectations about what a Republican-controlled Congress should, can, and will achieve.

• 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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