Over the course of 2016, the call rang out again and again: “Drain the swamp!” This phrase—second only to “Make America Great Again”—defined last year’s election. Ultimately, the people had this overwhelming sense that Washington wasn’t listening, that the country was on the wrong track, and that faraway elites didn’t care to help them or even hear their opinions.
So while we have big issues to tackle—health care and tax reform top the list—President Trump and Republicans in Congress recognize that if we don’t disrupt the way Washington works, we’ll end up facing the same problems.
So how does Washington work? The truth is, some parts of Washington have gathered up power for decades while simultaneously shedding accountability. States, which have always been more accountable to the people, were reduced to implementers of federal policy. On the other hand, bureaucracies have grown exponentially and began effectively legislating without ever having to respond to growing popular concerns.
It’s no wonder the people felt disenfranchised. Those closest to them were stripped of power and those further away gathered that power up. Republicans in Congress, sent to Washington by the people before Mr. Trump became president, faced this same problem for some time. Although we may not have put it in President Trump’s words, draining the swamp is exactly what we have long called for, and we have already begun working with the president to make Washington serve the people again.
So how do we do that? How do we enact President Trump’s call to drain the swamp? In short: restrain the bureaucracy and empower the states.
The first week of the new year, the House began a regulatory reform push that continues today to scale back the administrative bureaucracy. Regulations from an out-of-touch Washington bureaucracy weigh down businesses and destroy jobs—but this is more than just an economic issue. Career bureaucrats who never stand for reelection have broad authority with almost no accountability. These bureaucracies grow and keep their power regardless of corruption, incompetence, waste, or the backroom deals they make with special interests. There have even been reports that career civil servants who are supposed to be employees of the executive branch are actively trying to undermine President Trump’s agenda.
The bureaucracy is at the core of the swamp, and little else can be done without reform.
To begin this process of reform and restore power to the people, the House passed the REINS Act, requiring congressional approval of regulations that cost $100 million or more, and the Regulatory Accountability Act, which ends a court precedence that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy and against the people. Together, these bills put a check on what regulators can do and what they can get away with in court.
While these pieces of legislation work their way through Congress, the House and Senate used the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama administration rules that would have endangered tens of thousands of American jobs, undermined local control over land and education, and threatened our core constitutional rights, from the Second Amendment to due process protections. Though before this year only one Congressional Review Act resolution was ever successfully signed, last week Republicans accomplished something unprecedented when President Trump signed the final one of these 14 resolutions.
But restraining the bureaucracy is only one path to empower the people. People have more power when states have more power because states are, by their nature, closer and more responsive to the people. Besides keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Act is the largest devolution of power to the states in decades.
Medicaid reform in the legislation allows states to decide how best to help the poor and disabled, unhindered by the heavy handed federal government. And if some states want to keep Obamacare’s broken system, that’s their choice. When our bill is signed into law, states will be able to choose whether to keep Obamacare’s rules and regulations, or do something better.
This is an approach President Trump wholeheartedly endorsed, and frankly, the president demonstrated an unprecedented degree of involvement in getting this bill across the finish line.
Whatever disagreements Republicans might have—and there are always disagreements over details—we are unified by a simple truth. Washington is too powerful, it has worked against the interests of the people, and the people demand a change. President Trump wants to drain the swamp. Republicans have already gotten to work.