House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) used the GOP’s Saturday radio address to roll out his package of proposals for the coming week. The common theme, Cantor explained, is about “restoring trust with you, the taxpayers” and “restoring faith in our economy.”
He explained a number of the measures:
The REINS Act requires Congress to approve any new regulation proposed by bureaucrats that threatens to impact and add costs to our businesses and working families. Cutting red tape makes sense – it creates jobs and puts more money in your wallet.
We will also remove the IRS from having anything to do with your health care. . . .
And finally, House Republicans will give you more power to hold Washington accountable. We will move legislation guaranteeing a citizen’s right to record conversations with federal regulators. We will also act to require government agencies to adopt customer service standards.
These are positive, albeit limited, steps in corralling big government. Certainly this is more constructive than President Obama’s campaign tour down memory lane. Moreover, Cantor has been among the most forward-looking of lawmakers in the House, offering a raft of proposals to address everything from flex time for working parents to transparency in college tuition costs.
But, I would suggest, House Republicans would be smart to address the biggest job killer and source of government “mistrust” by focusing on Obamacare. They should do so in meaningful ways that go beyond empty threats to shut down the government.
First, the straw that may break the back of Obamacare is the state exchanges. Anecdotal reports suggest that these exchanges, at least half of which are to be operated by the feds, are a tangled mess. The House should hold hearings, call in the governors and pull back on the curtain on the chaos about to unfold.
In addition, the investigation of the IRS scandal is, just as the Obama administration wanted, losing momentum. The House should remind voters what we know, what the administration has told us and how the White House’s evolving story has diverged from the facts. Then it will be time to pull in the IRS to explain how it is going to run Obamacare. What protections are in place? Who will have authority to oversee this, and are any personnel involved in the current IRS scandal going to be running Obamacare? The level of trust that the administration seeks to invest in a troubled and disgraced agency is jaw-dropping, and voters should know about it.
And finally, it is time for the House GOP to come up with their own substitute for health care. When I asked Cantor on Friday why a GOP health-care bill hadn’t been passed, he said he wasn’t sure that “a single, omnibus bill” was the answer. Fair enough, but what about two or three bills (just as the House is doing on immigration reform)?
Now it may be that strategically the House Republicans just want to focus on Obamacare, and don’t want to offer a plan for the Dems to shoot at. That has worked for a while, but it’s not going to be enough as we get closer to the 2014 election. Moreover, it is not in keeping with the House leadership’s own pledge to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.
A Cantor aide pointed out that a number of GOP bills, including those offered by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Tom Price (Ga.), have been introduced. But they haven’t been voted on; no replacement for Obamacare has passed the House since that measure passed more than 3 years ago. The aide did point out that the Kids First Research bill (to fund pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health) will come up again and that leadership is in favor of shoring up high-risk pools and draining the Obamacare slush fund — the Help Sick Americans Now bill. But back-benchers shot that down.
This isn’t much, frankly. The calls to repeal Obamacare would be more convincing if the House and Senate Republicans would tell us what they support (and they don’t necessarily have to be identical). No, a GOP plan won’t pass, but don’t Republicans have an obligation to put it out there (just as they have done on the budget)? I think so.