Conservative disappointments were blessedly rare this Election Day. That doesn’t lessen the sting felt by those involved in individually lost races, however anomalous they might have been. Suffice to say, though, that Nov. 4, 2014, was an overall good day for Republicans.
The big news of the night, of course, was the GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate. Meaning what, exactly? Meaning that the legislative branch is now in mostly conservative hands, albeit by a margin slim enough to leave it vulnerable to both an in-house filibuster and presidential veto. Although Republicans are now a more potent force than they were in controlling only the House, they still can’t perform miracles. As giddy as Republicans are at having deposed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (that in itself is worth a fortnight of celebration), they still aren’t in a position to take much in the way, nationally, of concrete action to reverse the liberal tide.
But what Republicans are in a position to do is to set the narrative for 2016. This means, in part, preparing the terrain for a GOP president — so that something can be accomplished — as well as framing the issues and establishing the agenda for the 2016 election cycle.
One way in which the Republican Congress can effectively do this is by taking on the bureaucratic state, the extra-constitutional government-by-agency that has infected government at both the federal and state levels and left Americans at the mercy of regulations carrying the force of law levelled on them by countless agencies, commissions and departments.
Columnist George Will has outlined a few places where Republicans could do just that, including a bill to disband the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, a monster created by Dodd-Frank that was given power to make law without accountability, oversight or direct authorization by the elected legislature by arbitrarily declaring certain business practices as “abusive.” That’s not to mention the Independent Payment Advisory Panel, a creation of Obamacare whose policy recommendations automatically become law unless Congress passes its own law which satisfies the panel’s bidding. One would have to try pretty hard to draft a law which more blatantly outsourced Congress’ constitutionally assigned lawmaking authority.
Will also recommended Congress pass the Regulations for the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require Congressional approval and a presidential signature to enact any regulation that presented a $100 million affect on the economy. Will also suggested the GOP pass a bill expediting the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository for both practical reasons and as a poke in the eye to Harry Reid. I approve.
These bills would begin the reversal of the bureaucratic state, reassert Congress’ lawmaking making authority and stand absolutely no chance of becoming law in the next two years. Many have observed, and it bears repeating, that President Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton. Obama is an ideologue. He has precisely zero interest in compromise except as a means to an end, focused as he is on an objective. That hasn’t changed.
But what has changed is that good legislation can conceivably now move from Harry Reid’s desk to Obama’s. Reid could ignore it, the president can’t.
One arena where Republican electoral victories could have a positive impact is in states which elected GOP governors. Unfortunately, Colorado was not among them.
Now it needs to be said here that as a policy advisor to Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, my objectivity is somewhat compromised on this issue. But it is undeniable there’ll will be measurable consequences to this election. First, under Gov. Beauprez, Colorado could have led the movement for western states to recover large swaths of land and resources now owned by the federal government. Repairs could have been made to a dangerously broken criminal justice system that has languished under four years of neglect and ACLU-driven “reforms” that tilted the scales heavily in favor of the criminal element at the tragic expense of victims and law-abiding citizens. Movement towards a choice-based educational model that returned control to parents and local school boards, improved the education of Colorado kids and pulled the plug on Common Core’s federally enforced uniformity could have been started. And many of the rollbacks to the bureaucratic state that should be attempted didactically by Congress would have actually been realized here at the state level. Unfortunately, those improvements will have to be left to Illinois, Maryland and Wisconsin.
Still, we can rejoice at the ground taken in the federal legislative branch. U.S. Sen.-elect Cory Gardner and the rest of the Republicans have a great opportunity to effect change if they adopt a realistic and long-term expectation of what they can and can’t and aggressively pursue that which they can with an eye to affecting the landscape of 2016.