While everyone else was morbidly transfixed by the theater that is the speaker’s race, incoming House Majority Leader Steve Scalise outlined last week the first 11 bills or resolutions that the new House majority will address in the 118th Congress.
It is important to understand that legislation is, in large measure, a negotiation. That means that the opening bid needs to be strong and aggressive. Let’s look at the House Republicans’ initial plans through that lens.
The initial agenda is a good start and a solid — if unsurprising — list that touches on many of the issues that Republicans emphasized in last year’s midterm campaigns. It can probably be improved. The House Republicans intend to:
• Rescind the 87,000 new IRS agents provided in the Inflation Reduction Act to harass our citizens like a horde of locusts. That’s a good starting point, but given the urgency of inflation and the recession in which we find ourselves, the start of a new Congress would be an excellent place to try to ratchet back on some of the $6 trillion committed by Team Biden over the last two years.
• Establish the select committee on the strategic competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. Everyone should be skeptical of select committees. They exist outside of the institutional arrangements of Congress and, consequently, tend to be driven by personality and whim. In this case, House Republicans should skip the middle steps and get on with banning TikTok across the United States and precluding Chinese companies from participating in our capital markets.
• Prohibit nonemergency drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve absent a federal plan to increase energy production. The SPR is, at this point, a completely broken idea. It needs a top-to-bottom reset. While the Republicans are thinking about energy, they should introduce and advocate permitting reform that makes material changes to the underlying organic statutes.
• Seek transparency in the administration of justice. Restrained here by the limits of federalism, House Republicans are trying to make it clear that local prosecutors are not always doing their job (think Philadelphia or Los Angeles). That’s good. Threatening to cut off federal funding would be better.
• Reject “defunding the police.” An oldie but still a goodie. It’s not too late to take a look at law enforcement’s response to the riots of the summer of 2020. Address the crisis at our southern border by empowering the Department of Homeland Security to turn away illegal migrants at our border if the DHS secretary does not have operational control. It is unclear what this would actually do, but it seems likely that requiring employers to use E-Verify would be better. We need to think about closing the border until we can get a handle on illegal immigration. We may as well start now.
• Alert local law enforcement when a gun transferee is illegally present in the United States.
• Embed in statute the Hyde Amendment, which precludes the use of federal funds for abortions. That is the absolutely correct course of action.
• Express congressional concerns about recent attacks on churches, pregnancy centers, etc. That’s definitely good, but is there some way to require the Department of Justice to do their jobs here?
• Ensure that any survivor of an abortion receives the same care and protection of the law as any other newborn. Again, that’s great. But a federal ban on late-term abortion would be better.
In addition to these items, House Republicans should probably think about a parents bill of rights with respect to their schools, enforced, if necessary, by restrictions on federal funding.
Finally, the House Republicans should make it clear that they intend to proceed through regular order rather than relying on last-minute, poorly designed legislation. They could even preclude taking up Senate legislation until it, too, goes through regular order.
The initial program put forth by Mr. Scalise — who has the best team in Congress — is promising, but there is room for it to be bigger and bolder.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” 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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