A Letter to a New Republican Senator
Dear Incoming Senator of the 114th Congress,
First, you don’t know me and I’m not one of your constituents (my senators were not up for reelection this term). Before you throw my letter away, I’d just like to give you five tips in a short list on how to make the country better.
- Cornered Animals Bite
Congratulations on retaking the Senate! It’s something we were all hoping for and now you have a mandate to govern! This is a really good feeling. When all the dust settles it looks like you have one of the biggest Republican majorities in the House in the modern era to help you to govern.
Unfortunately, there’s a problem. That shrill voice on the wind causing you to shudder isn’t the cold, it’s the winter wind of Washington: the disaffected minority. As you are no doubt well-aware, you came to power in no small part by capitalizing on intransigence of the majority and filibustering rhetoric. The more you attempt to govern, the more the injured Democratic shills will attack your positions.
Be prepared with numbers, graphs and charts to show that your way is the right way.
- Impeachment is Dumb
While you were in the minority, talking about impeachment galvanized the part of the base that is always on the lookout for controversy. You’re in the governing majority now, unless we find some real high crimes and misdemeanors, let’s reserve the sanction for more than just politics.
- Bring Back the Filibuster Rule
Over the last year, in order to push through the President’s nominations, Harry Reid and his senators pushed the button on the rules change that allows for mere majority votes on appointments. While you have the chance, it’s a good time to bring back the supermajority rule.
Now, a lot of people will call this undemocratic or a consolation to the minority. However, the Senate is the more august body and each senator stands for every constituent in his or her state. It is a state’s rights argument that any state on behalf of its representative should be able to object to a national policy.
- Be Ready for a Supreme Court Nomination
President Obama has been able to make two appointments to the Supreme Court in his first four years in office. President Bush made two in his eight years. President Clinton had two in his eight years. President George H.W. Bush had two in his four years. While most of the liberal justices on the Supreme Court see the reality that their replacements would have to make it through a Republican Senate, not all the members of the Court are as young as they once were.
Rather than focusing in on the potential retirement of Ruth Bader Ginsberg (which, for the reason I just mentioned is extremely unlikely), focus on the potential of a seat coming open on the conservative bloc. It is a healthy dose of “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
- Repeal Obamacare Twice
The President will never sign onto a wholesale dismantling of his greatest legislative achievement. Likewise, any real alteration to the program will result on you shouldering the blame to your constituents about being a turncoat appeaser. So, what’s the way forward?
Undoubtedly one of the first acts of the House will be a wholesale repeal of Obamacare. They’ll make a big to-do over it and then you’ll have a ceremonious vote in the Senate officially repealing it and sending it to the President who will promptly veto it. Then a brief battle ensues over the possibility of overturning the veto, but you won’t have the numbers for that.
So you’ll have to try something else. The easy way would be to force a defunding or repeal provision into a spending bill or a defense authorization bill. The President would, in turn, be given the opportunity to say you’re playing politics with the children (or military, or zoos, or contracts, or “our safety”) before trying to take the heroic road and vetoing it (or the martyr road of signing it).
The reason why that option isn’t palatable is because you only have two years to govern before a disproportionate number of your Republican colleagues are up for reelection and Americans are cajoled into voting for Hillary Clinton (don’t read that as a foregone conclusion, but as a potential worst case scenario).
So, what to do? Dismantle the law by bringing to light and chopping away at institutional bureaucracy. Hold hearings and begin to de-authorize major parts of the Department of Health and Human Services. Make the institutions look incompetent and political. Then begin to starve them with lack of funding after the population sees that there is no good coming from bureaucrats playing doctor. Then, institute a superseding program that provides for non-employment based healthcare and fosters a competitive marketplace while still providing some of the institutional safeguards for popular reforms for students and people with pre-existing conditions.
In sum, turn popular opinion against Obamacare and argue that it’s bureaucrats playing doctor then institute incremental programs that subtly dismantle the current architecture.
Once again, congratulations on your election, and I wish you all the best in the coming years.