Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Way Forward

Now that The Republicans will control both houses of Congress in January suggestions for legislation they should pass have been littering the editorial pages.

It must be remembered, however, that many bills require a 60 vote majority to pass in the Senate because the minority party can filibuster. That is, the Democrats can block any bill they don't like by declaring a filibuster which it takes 60 votes to override. The Republicans will only have (at most) 54 senators so they'd have to find six or more Democrats willing to buck their party leadership to move the bill through the Senate and onto the president's desk. That will be difficult.

Nevertheless, here are some measures that are being proposed by conservatives. Some of them would be wonderful, some I'm not sure about, and some I don't like, but you decide what you think about them.

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds offers six suggestion several of which which reflect his libertarian inclinations. The accompanying explanations are excerpted from his article:

End the federally imposed 21-year-old drinking age. The limit was dreamed up in the 1980s as a bit of political posturing by then-secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole. It has been a disaster. College drinking hasn't been reduced; it has just moved out of bars and into dorm rooms, fraternities/sororities and house parties. The result has been a boom in alcohol problems on campus.

Repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This awful law, passed in the Clinton era, is a giveaway to the entertainment industry. It places major burdens on Internet and computer users and electronic innovators.

Make birth-control pills available over the counter. Cory Gardner made this a part of his winning platform in Colorado's Senate race. Let women choose.

End public-sector employee unions. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker eliminated dues-withholding for public employee unions in his state. The unions were so angry that they organized a recall campaign against him. They lost. They then tried to recall a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who upheld his action. They lost. They then tried to beat Walker in last week's election. They lost again. President Franklin Roosevelt opposed public employee unions because he thought that people whose salaries came from the taxpayers shouldn't have the right to collectively bargain against citizens whose taxes were being collected by force, and that collective bargaining by public employees was a conflict of interest. He was right.

Institute a "revolving door" surtax on those who make more in post-government employment. Leave a Treasury job making $150,000 a year to take one in private industry paying $750,000, and you'll pay 50% surtax on the $600,000 difference. Most of the increased pay is based on knowledge and connections you got while on Uncle Sam's dime, so why shouldn't Uncle Sam get a share?

Syndicated columnist George Will of the Washington Post offers another half dozen suggestions. I've shortened the explanations somewhat and added a one sentence note to the last one:

Abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.The CFPB is empowered to “declare,” with no legislative guidance or institutional inhibitions, that certain business practices are “abusive.” It also embodies progressivism’s authoritarianism by being, unlike any entity Congress has created since 1789, untethered from all oversight mechanisms: Its funding, “determined by the director,” comes from the Federal Reserve.

Repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This expression of the progressive mind is an artifact of the Affordable Care Act and may be the most anti-constitutional measure ever enacted. When the IPAB’s 15 presidential appointees make what the Affordable Care Act calls a “legislative proposal” limiting reimbursements to doctors, this proposal automatically becomes law unless Congress passes a similar measure cutting Medicare spending. Under this constitutional travesty, an executive-branch agency makes laws unless the legislative branch enacts alternative means of achieving the executive agency’s aim. The Affordable Care Act stipulates that no measure for the abolition of the board can be introduced before 2017 or after Feb. 1, 2017, and must be enacted by Aug. 15 of that year. So, one Congress presumed to bind all subsequent Congresses in order to achieve progressivism’s consistent aim — abolishing limited government by emancipating presidents from restraint by the separation of powers.

Repeal the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices.This $29 billion blow to an industry that provides more than 400,000 jobs is levied not on firms’ profits but on gross revenues, and it comes on top of the federal (the developed world’s highest) corporate income tax, plus state and local taxes. Enough Democrats support repeal that a presidential veto might be overridden.

Improve energy, economic and environmental conditions by authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would reduce the risk of spills by reducing the transportation of oil in railroad tankers.

Mandate completion of the nuclear waste repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. The signature achievement of Harry Reid’s waning career has been blocking this project, on which approximately $15 billion has been spent. So, rather than nuclear waste being safely stored in the mountain’s 40 miles of tunnels 1,000 feet underground atop 1,000 feet of rock, more than 160 million Americans live within 75 miles of one or more of the 121 locations where 70,000 tons of waste are stored.

Pass the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. It would require that any regulation with at least a $100 million annual impact on the economy — there are approximately 200 of them in the pipeline — be approved without amendments by a joint resolution of Congress and signed by the president. “In effect,” writes the Hudson Institute’s Christopher DeMuth, “major agency rules would become legislative proposals with fast-track privileges.”

As it is various executive agencies can promulgate regulations with enormous economic impact and Congress is essentially helpless to stop them.

For those interested more in process and the larger picture Senator Mike Lee has some excellent advice in a column at The Federalist.