I love baseball. How exciting it is watching the epic battle that ensues when a batter steps up to the plate to face the best a pitcher can deliver. When the pitcher uncorks a ninety-nine mile an hour fastball the batter can't run and he can't hide. All he can do is take his best shot and hope that his bat speed is good enough to catch up to a pitch that he can barely see.
The newly elected Republican Congress is about to step up to the plate and it will take the heart of their lineup to bring order to the chaos that is Washington. Republicans won't have the luxury of the equivalent of a spring training tune up before they begin to tackle the key issues that propelled them to power. There are three key issues they will have to address quickly if they hope to capture the confidence of a hopeful but skeptical electorate.
First up will be the attempt to repeal Obamacare. Speaking on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton said he expects "significant bipartisan support" for the repeal vote and he went on to say that a vote to repeal the unpopular law would be held, "before President Obama's State of the Union address. " Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for incoming House Republican leader Eric Cantor, confirmed that the House plans to vote on legislation to repeal the healthcare law on January 12.
The repeal vote will pass the House faster than you can say "death panels" but the Senate will be a different story. It is likely many Democrats will join with the Republican majority voting in favor of the repeal vote. That will put pressure on the Senate to bring up the issue for debate and a vote. But there is no doubt Democrats in the Senate will block any outright vote to repeal. House Republicans will then be forced to attack the healthcare bill piece by piece by repealing the most unpopular parts first and by cutting off funding. Republicans need to move swiftly but they must tread lightly. The government takeover of healthcare must be repealed before it becomes embedded in the American psyche as a new entitlement.
Arriving on the heals of the healthcare repeal vote will be the opportunity for the new Congress to stop the attempt of the Obama Administration from governing by regulatory fiat. The Federal Communications Commission is attempting to control the Internet without the approval or input of Congress. Just before Christmas, FCC Chairman Juilius Genachowski pushed through the new rules by pressuring the three Democrats on the five-member commission to go along with the plan. The newly implemented rules will curtail phone and cable companies ability to set policy concerning broadband connections of rival services, such as Internet phone calls or online video. The move by the FCC sets the dangerous precedent of allowing a federal regulatory commission the power to set policy rather than enforce policies enacted by the elected legislature. Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell called the FCC's plan "an obsessive quest to regulate at all costs." He said the decision made the FCC look like a "regulatory vigilante."
Following the lead of the FCC the EPA is flexing its regulatory muscle by enacting new regulations of major stationary sources of greenhouse gases. Cap and trade legislation died in the Senate but that didn't slow down the Obama Administration's determination to impose job-killing regulations on business. They simply shifted their focus from the representative body of government to a regulatory agency that can be easily controlled. The new Republican Congress needs to immediately stop the Obama Administrations march to the left by bypassing the legislative process.
Finally, Republicans and fiscally conservative Democrats should work together to force as many spending cuts as possible in return for a vote to increase the debt ceiling. Republicans need to realize the debt ceiling debate can turn into a minefield if they simply refuse to vote for an increase. Failing to increase the debt ceiling will simply drive the country over a financial cliff sooner rather than later. However, Republicans should tie their vote to a constitutional amendment forcing a balanced budget and significant spending cuts.
In 1994 Republicans took control of Congress when the American people rejected the left leaning policies of the Clinton Administration. That victory turned into an advantage for Clinton in 1995 when Republicans threatened to shut down the government. President Clinton and the Democrats won that debate through demagoguery and deceit. Republicans must make sure they don't make the same mistake with the debate over the debt ceiling. Ultimately, it will have to be raised to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations. But Republicans should be able to use the vote the get major concessions on spending that will put us on the path to fiscal responsibility.
Three major policy decisions…three major opportunities for Republicans to step up to the plate and face the best pitches of the political Left. We need more than a few base hits. We need a grand slam.