Well Congratulations Republicans, you have done it. You now control the United States Supreme Court, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate. The only thing standing between you and the Ayn Rand inspired utopia you have always fantasized about is a lame duck President with low approval ratings. The responsibility of getting stuff done is now on your shoulders.
However, Republicans are Republicans, and I fully expect them to squander this opportunity to actually govern and get anything done. Let me give you a couple examples of very popular things Republicans could do but won’t.
First off, Republicans will not reform our health care laws. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is the signature piece of legislation for President Obama and perhaps the most controversial new law in several generations. The law has never enjoyed significant popularity at any time. The passage of the law was a key factor in several supporters loosing re-election and was a key factor in the “shellacking” Democrats took in the 2010 midterm elections.
However, at this point, overturning Obamacare is more of a political rallying cry than it is a serious policy agenda. Whereas I am sure many Republicans would love to overturn the employer mandate, I don’t see many lining up to return to a system that makes it legal to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. I am sure many conservatives would love to end Medicaid expansion, but considering the fact that 28 state legislatures have already approved Medicaid expansion, I don’t see that being likely. Finally, even though Obamacare is not very popular among voters, Republicans understand that voters have grown tired of efforts to repeal the law.
The bottom line is as House Speaker John Boehner said back in 2012, Obamacare is the law of the land.
Now Republicans could attempt to reform the law. Republicans are furious at the President for delaying the employer mandate, how about repealing or significantly changing it? Republicans are infuriated because they don’t like the individual mandate, how about repealing the penalties for them? I am sure there are many reforms to Healthcare Republicans could promote and get passed.
However, promoting any reforms would take a campaign issue away from the 2016 Presidential race. If Republicans start to take responsibility for health care policy, how can they attack Democrats for problems with the system?
Second, Republicans will not move to create jobs. I have no doubt that the economy of the United States will continue to create jobs. However, the GOP congress should get no credit for that. Since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the United States has added just shy of 6 million jobs. This is more jobs added than any other advanced economy in the world during this period of time (by comparison, George W. Bush added less than 1 million jobs during his 2 terms). Republicans will never admit to this, but after recovering from the Great Recession that started before he took office, President Obama has proven to be an effective job creator.
The fact that things are already getting better will make it hard for Republicans to sell massive tax cuts to create jobs. It benefits the Republicans politically more if they can keep job growth repressed in the hopes that a future Republican President will allow them to pass the massive tax reform they dream of.
If Republicans really wanted to create jobs and make government work (which of coerce they don’t), they would push through a massive infrastructure bill. The American Society of Civil Engineers Annual Report card in 2013 gave the United States a D+ rating for infrastructure. According to their report, it would take $3.6 trillion in new investments by 2020 to bring our crumbling infrastructure up to speed.
Honestly, if I was to fault President Obama for one thing during his first term, it would be that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 did not include more spending for much needed infrastructure.
Republicans should pass a massive new spending bill to improve infrastructure. Let’s be honest, this should not be a right/left thing as there is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat pothole. However, because fixing these things means new spending, and new spending can only be accomplished by increased debt or new taxes, Republicans will not move on infrastructure and will instead kick the can to the future.
The bottom line is the modern Republican Party is built to win elections, not to govern. The only purpose of the GOP for the next two years in Washington will be to assist in the 2016 Presidential election. They may succeed at that goal; however, America will be worse off because of it.