MEMO: Conservative Expectations on House Leadership Races
To: Interested Parties
From: Heritage Action for America
Date: September 30, 2015
Subject: Conservative Expectations on House Leadership Races
The upcoming leadership races should not be driven by personality, quid pro quo committee assignments and fundraising prowess. Instead, those races should be determined by policy and process. Which candidates will promote a conservative policy agenda that advances opportunity for all and favoritism to none? Which candidates will fight for those policies and seriously challenge President Obama? Which candidates will reform the internal workings of the House to ensure a more open and deliberative process with less top-down management, and end the culture of punishment and retribution?
A Real Governing Vision. The complete absence of a conservative agenda by the Republican-controlled Congress must change. In evaluating leadership candidates, members should demand clarity as to how each one would put forward a positive conservative agenda that promotes opportunity for all and favoritism to none. For example:
Higher Education. Younger Americans (and in many cases their parents) are suffering from the high cost and rigidity of our nation’s higher education system. The new leadership team should use the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to embrace bold reforms. The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act would break up our nation’s accreditation cartel and open the doors of opportunity for all Americans.
Entitlement Reform. The House-passed budget promised a myriad of important reforms, though none have moved through the House as standalone legislation. Sending real entitlement reforms – Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and even Social Security – to the Senate would demonstrate the new leadership is serious about advancing conservative policy and serious about forcing Senate action on those priorities.
Tax Reform. Advancing a sweeping, pro-growth tax reform that removes entrenched favoritism buried in the current code should be a priority. Doing so would demonstrate a much-needed seriousness when it comes to policy and continue to emphasize the party’s move away from K Street.
Religious Liberty. Americans should be free to practice their religious beliefs without fear of oppression or discrimination, especially from the federal government. New leadership should embrace that fundamental right by advancing the First Amendment Defense Act.
Significant Internal Reforms. More often than not, process and personnel are policy. As things stand, the House and GOP conference rules concentrate power in the hands of a few individuals, thus marginalizing conservatives and rank-and-file members. In evaluating leadership candidates, members should demand key reforms that decentralize power in the House and empower members to better represent their constituents.
Near-term Trust Building. In evaluating leadership candidates, members should demand clarity as to how each one would fight the numerous legislative battles that will emerge over the remainder of the year. Members should evaluate the next Speaker and his or her leadership team on the following issues:
Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer funding of abortion giant Planned Parenthood cannot continue. A key test will occur today as outgoing Speaker John Boehner plans to use Democrats votes to continue the organization’s funding. Those seeking a leadership position should fight his plan using every tool at their disposal.
Reconciliation. The Republican budget passed, primarily, because leadership and the budget chairmen promised “the use of reconciliation for the sole purpose of repealing the President’s job-killing health care law.” Failure to uphold that promise will jeopardize the likelihood of passing a budget next year. It will also hamper efforts to fully repeal the law in 2017.
Budget Caps. In 2011, the Republican-controlled House forced President Obama to sign spending caps into law. Those caps have been raised once before and many suggest they will be raised once more, in an effort dubbed Ryan-Murray 2.0. A near-term spending increase would further undermine the party’s claim to fiscal responsibility.
Debt Ceiling. The debt ceiling is a legitimate tool to control spending and enact major pillars of the GOP budget. The next GOP leadership team must pledge to use that tool. Additionally, they should pledge to tie the debt ceiling to an actual number, as opposed to a date change that hides the true cost of such actions.
Export-Import Bank. The new leadership team must promise to keep the Export-Import Bank shuttered and limit its funding to ensure it only conducts activities necessary to winding down. Additionally, the next Speaker and his or her leadership team must stop any attempt to resurrect the bank, which has been closed for 92 days.
Highway Bailout. According to the Department of Transportation, the federal Highway Trust Fund currently has more resources than previously projected, and should have plenty of funding to continue operating well into next year. The next GOP leadership team must ensure the October 29 reauthorization deadline is not used as an excuse to pass a massive extension and expansion of federal highway funding.
No Child Left Behind. House Republicans rightly criticized the Senate’s reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. There is no reason for the House to proceed to a conference with such a bill.
The opportunity for a change in leadership should empower rank-and-file lawmakers. The Republican-controlled House should embrace this as an opportunity to align itself with the conservative grassroots and increase the likelihood the party will actually fight for conservative policy priorities. That will not happen through inertia, though. It will take a concerted effort to ensure the meaning of the moment is not lost.
No one should need an army of lawyers, lobbyists and accountants to succeed in this great nation. We have a chance to take back America, but it will require the Republican Party to fight for all Americans, not the powerful and well connected.