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True Leadership in the House


From the Weekly Standard:

Last week, after retaking the House, coming two-thirds of the way toward retaking the Senate, and capturing hundreds of state and local offices from the Democrats in every region of the country, Republicans struck a much more subdued tone. No balloons, no blaring music, no fists in the air. John Boehner, the presumptive speaker of the House, did not even declare Republicans triumphant. “We have real work to do, and this is not a time for celebration,” he told the crowd.

The day after the election, [Eric Cantor, likely House majority leader] released a document directed to Republican members and members-in-waiting that laid out his view of how the new Congress should operate. He highlighted the need to deal with entitlements, while acknowledging that so far Republicans have not been specific enough. He made repealing Obamacare—piece by piece if a wholesale repeal doesn’t work—the Republicans’ top priority.

Since all the Republicans will really control after January is the House of Representatives, much of what Boehner and Cantor have had to say has involved changes internal to the House. The new House will, for instance, systematically review federal regulations that depress job creation. It will also require that before bills reach the floor their sponsors articulate what constitutional authority justifies the action they propose and why it is an action better taken at the federal than the state or local level. Boehner and Cantor, moreover, have promised to bring back the practice of rescission bills, which take back spending that has been appropriated but not yet spent; to ban earmarks; to build the House schedule around committee hearings rather than floor votes; and to do away with silly votes to commemorate local events or declare national popcorn month.

These are small and largely symbolic first steps, to be sure. There is much more the Republicans could do, even when it comes to internal reforms of the House—and particularly when it comes to the appropriations process. And there are some very real tests coming soon: the fight to retain the Bush tax cuts, the first Republican budget, the next round of the health care debate.

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