What the GOP must do now
Unlike the dog that chased the car until, to its consternation, he caught it, Republicans know what to do with what they have caught. Having completed their capture of control of the legislative branch, they should start with the following six measures concerning practical governance and constitutional equilibrium:
• Abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This creature of the labyrinthine Dodd-Frank law violates John Locke’s dictum: “The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands.” The CFPB is empowered to “declare,” with no legislative guidance or institutional inhibitions, that certain business practices are “abusive.”
• Repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This is an artifact of the Affordable Care Act and may be the most anti-constitutional measure ever enacted. It certainly violates the first words of the first article of the Constitution: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress.” The IPAB’s purported function is to achieve the ACA’s purpose of cost containment by reducing Medicare spending. When the IPAB’s appointees make what the ACA calls a “legislative proposal” limiting reimbursements to doctors, this proposal automatically becomes law unless Congress passes a similar measure cutting Medicare spending. The ACA stipulates that no measure for the abolition of the IPAB can be introduced before 2017 or after Feb. 1, 2017. So, one Congress presumed to bind all subsequent Congresses in order to abolish limited government by emancipating presidents from restraint by the separation of powers. This impertinence by the 111th Congress requires a firm rebuke by the 114th.
• Repeal the ACA’s tax on medical devices. This $29 billion blow to an industry that provides more than 400,000 jobs is levied not on firms’ profits but on gross revenues and comes on top of the federal corporate income tax, plus state and local taxes. Enough Democrats support repeal that a presidential veto might be overridden.
• Authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would reduce the risk of spills by reducing the transportation of oil in railroad tankers.
• Mandate completion of the nuclear waste repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. The signature achievement of Harry Reid’s waning career has been blocking this project. So, rather than nuclear waste being safely stored in the mountain’s 40 miles of tunnels 1,000 feet underground, more than 160 million Americans live within 75 miles of one or more of the 121 locations where 70,000 tons of waste are stored.
• Pass the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act. It would require that any regulation with at least a $100 million annual impact on the economy — there are approximately 200 of them in the pipeline — must be approved without amendments by joint resolution of Congress and signed by the president.
If, as is likely, the result of Congress doing these and similar things is a blizzard of presidential vetoes, even this would be constructive. The 2016 presidential election would follow a two-year demonstration of how reactionary progressivism is in opposing changes to the nation’s trajectory. Congressional actions provoking executive rejections would frame the argument about progressivism. And as Margaret Thatcher advised, first you win the argument, then you win the vote.
George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek.