In the waning days before Tuesday’s midterm elections, the poll numbers nationwide are trending toward Republicans. A new CNN poll released earlier this week shows that a majority of Americans oppose the Obama presidency and are angry over the country’s direction. The momentum clearly belongs to the GOP.
However, even if Republicans take the Senate and increase their majority in the House, they must still manage to do no harm in the Lame-duck session of this Congress. In fact, looking closely at the trends—especially the insights of the CNN poll—we learn that there is a strong undercurrent of anxiety with the prospect of turning both houses of Congress over to the GOP. From the CNN poll, we know that “people will be happy to see Harry Reid gone from leadership,” but voters are not “looking forward to McConnell running the Senate.” That anxiety will certainly carry over into the Lame-duck session. The polling data tells us that significant questions linger for many voters: How will Republicans exercise their power? Will they offer a true alternative to Obama’s cronyism? Is there a difference between the parties?
First impressions are crucial, and the Lame-duck session will be an opportunity for Republicans to offer a glimpse into how they will govern as the majority in the 114th Congress. In an important way, the Lame-duck Congress could provide the GOP with the rare chance of re-introducing itself as a party that will fight for people and not just against things. For instance, Republicans can make the case that they are not simply against cronyism, but rather they stand for free enterprise—the only idea in human history that has lifted millions of people out of poverty. To do this, the GOP must first rid cronyism from its own ranks.
Republicans have railed against President Obama’s corporate bailouts and green energy kickbacks. But the legislative hopper has a number of crony proposals introduced by Republicans. This includes legislation, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), drafted to protect the business interests of one man, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The Graham/Chaffetz bill—or, if you like, the Adelson bill—would prevent states from legalizing online gambling within their own borders.
The legislation—written by one of Adelson’s lawyers—isn’t about the existence of online gambling. It exists, and Americans spend billions annually on unregulated overseas gaming sites. This legislation also isn't about safety. Foreign sites operate without child safeguards or financial protections. The legislation is about shielding one billionaire and his business from competition—the epitome of cronyism.
For nearly a decade, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ignored a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling declaring that the Wire Act covers only sporting events, not games of chance. The DOJ's interpretation effectively banned all Internet gambling, even within a single state. However, the DOJ reversed itself in 2011, returning to states the right to regulate online gambling.
The DOJ reversal was a terrific decision for states' rights. Three states—Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware—have since legalized online gaming and a dozen more states are looking to do the same. Seeing the trend, Sheldon Adelson tried—unsuccessfully—to build an online gaming business. However, failing to capitalize on the market, Adelson is now asking the government to outlaw his potential competition.
Pundits often joke that Republicans practice a “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach to public policy. After the midterms, the GOP will get the chance to take straight aim and fire at crony capitalism by making sure that the Adelson bill and all other crony power plays never see the light of day during the Lame-duck session (or any Congressional session, ever). Instead, Republicans can get to fixing what is broken with our economy, and get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers.