One of the lines we've heard again and again from the Left and even from mediocre Republicans like Bob Bennett and Lindsey Graham is that the Tea Party has no agenda. The idea is supposed to be that the Tea Party is just a bunch of slack-jawed, backwoods hillbillies who are rallying against progress and a black President. Of course, this is not true. The reason the Tea Party exists is because patriotic Americans all across this country are deeply concerned about our nation's future.
Now, there is no "Tea Party leader" or any one person who can speak for the Tea Party. Still, I've attended Tea Parties, I've spoken at Tea Parties (here and here) and I think I have a pretty good grip on what people at the Tea Parties want. It goes without saying that they want to get the deficit under control, they want Congress to start paying attention to the Constitution, and they’re going to ferociously oppose any big new government programs like Cap and Trade.
That being said, Tea Partiers tend to be considerably more informed than the average person about politics; so most of them are well aware of the legislative limitations we'll face if the GOP takes back the House, but doesn't control the Senate or the presidency. Additionally, it's no secret that the American people and the Republican base have very little confidence in the GOP. So, let's be honest here: if the GOP takes the House back, it will be because of the American people's deep dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, not their love for the Republican Party.
With that in mind, it makes sense to have a humble, limited agenda that helps rebuild the American people's confidence in the GOP's ability to govern. Here are seven doable agenda items that can help make that happen.
1) Kill earmarks: Earmarks don't make up a large percentage of the budget, but they have become a tremendous corrupting influence on Congress. The American people believe, quite correctly, that campaign contributors give money to congressmen and they pay them back for the favor by funneling millions of dollars in earmarks their way. We will not have an honest government in this country as long as this practice continues.
2) Read the bills: During Obama's tenure, we've been treated to massive bills that have been passed without ANYBODY actually reading them from end-to-end. This is simply unacceptable to the American people. Yes, every congressman might not read every bill, but at least their staff should read the bills so that they can inform them about what they're voting on. When I interviewed him, Rand Paul said he believed Congress should have to wait one day for every 20 pages of a bill before it’s voted upon. That seems to be a fairly reasonable proposition.
3) Kill the funding for Obamacare: To fully repeal Obamacare, you need to control the House, have 60 votes in the Senate, and control the Presidency. That's not going to be the case in 2011. Still, the GOP won't be helpless. To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person to suggest that the GOP simply refuse to fund Obamacare if it takes back the House,
"The IRS might have to hire as many as 16,000 new employees to enforce all the new taxes and penalties the bill calls for! And that doesn’t include all the other government jobs from the 159 new agencies, panels, commissions and departments this bill will create."
What does it take to fund all those government jobs, agencies, panels, & commissions? Tax dollars.
Now, who controls the purse strings? Congress. …So, can we gut Obamacare by refusing to fund it? YES. WE. CAN. Is this a viable strategy? Yes, it is.
Defunding Obamacare isn't as good as repealing it, but it can stop the bill in its tracks until we do have the votes to repeal it.
4) Security first border proposal: Even the most diehard advocates of amnesty and open borders in Congress claim to be for security when they're called on it. So, if the GOP takes back the House, there will be an opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff by passing a tough new security law that finishes building the fence, adds more border patrol agents, beefs up interior enforcement, severely penalizes businesses that knowingly hire illegals, ends catch and release programs for people of all nationalities, and does a better job of tracking people who come into America on VISAS. Then, the American people will be able to see once and for all who on Capitol Hill wants to actually end illegal immigration -- and who just gives lip service to the idea while privately doing everything possible to make sure the border remains open.
5) Investigate, investigate, investigate: The Obama Administration has been engaging in more than a few questionably legal maneuvers with no oversight of significance from Congress. If the GOP takes over the House, it will get subpoena power and it can start to get the sort of answers the public has been waiting for in the Sestak/Romanoff bribery case, the dropped Black Panther prosecutions, and the partisan corruption of the census -- among other issues. Barack Obama has been treated as above the law by the Democrats in Congress and it's about time that his administration is forced to start playing by the rules.
6) Get the government out of private industry: Congress controls the purse strings and it can make sure that not another dime goes to fund bailouts at private companies or at Freddie and Fannie. Moreover, the GOP needs to do what it can to move the government out of private industry as quickly as possible. We need to work to get the government out of the banks, the car companies, and student loan industry by 2012. If that means some companies go out of business, that's unfortunate, but any corporation that can only survive with the government's help deserves to go out of business. Although it's probably too much to hope for, that should apply to corporate welfare for farms and inefficient alternative sources of energy as well.
7) Pay for all new spending: Here's a simple rule: Any NEW spending, including "emergency spending," has to be paid for by cutting spending from other places in the budget. This will flatten the growth of government, impose spending discipline as the "new normal" in D.C., and get people used to the idea of cutting government programs -- something that has rarely happened in recent years. If the GOP can do at least that much, in combination with stopping earmarks and preventing Obamacare from being implemented, it can restore its reputation for responsible governance and fiscal discipline while setting the stage for the sort of gains we need in 2012 to get the country back on track fiscally.