Editor’s Note: Ron Bonjean is a partner at Singer Bonjean Strategies. He has served as lead spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Follow him on Twitter: @RonBonjean The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Ron Bonjean: Winning the midterm elections is not enough for Republicans
Bonjean: GOP must try to keep the Senate in 2016 and its majority in the coming cycles
He says now is time for GOP leaders to present the best ideas that can help Americans
Bonjean: It's a well-deserved victory, but GOP brand is stagnant and must be fixed
Republicans now have the Senate Majority and control of Congress going into next year. This means there can be no excuses for why bipartisan solutions designed to help the American people cannot pass the Senate and land on the President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
But winning this election is not enough. Republicans must be prepared to not only keep the Senate in 2016, but also build a foundation that will preserve their majority for the next several cycles.
Republicans will have to thread the needle between opposing the President and pushing forward their own agenda. Congressional Republicans must show they can truly govern and try to avoid excessive high profile fights that are only popular to the party’s base.
Republicans won because the President’s policies were on the ballot and so were the many incumbents who supported them. The electoral atmosphere could not have been better for the GOP, as the White House mishandled many issues, such as the IRS scandal, the immigration crisis, the growing crisis with ISIS in the Middle East and the health scares over Ebola in the United States.
It’s an exciting moment for the GOP because it can showcase its policies.
Toward the end of the Bush administration, we had lost our way and wandered into the wilderness and let the other side take control. For the first time in eight years, Republicans will have the chance to demonstrate that they are the party of common sense ideas, because they will run the entire show on Capitol Hill. They can start the process of putting in place a smarter, leaner and transparent government that restores freedom, grows the economy and creates more jobs.
Figuring out ways to unleash the American potential will be the solution to keeping a lasting Republican majority. Now is the time for party leaders, rank-and-file members of Congress and governors to come forward and present the best ideas our party has to offer.
We have two steady hands at the helm with Speaker John Boehner and soon-to-be Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They do not overreact in times of intense legislative drama and are able to negotiate solid deals in order to move the ball forward without giving up their core conservative values.
In addition, Republican lieutenants like House Majority Leader Kevi McCarthy, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise and Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn are all loyal and very able leaders to help implement the party’s agenda.
Time is not on the GOP’s side. Republicans have a very limited window to demonstrate that they are the party of real change. They have next year to push through legislation to the President’s desk for his signature. That is why Republicans must not get caught up in the 2016 election year cycle before presidential politics takes over.
If the GOP focuses too much on who sits in the Oval Office too early, many of the party’s efforts will end up in legislative quicksand. Yes, there will be several high-profile senators who will be positioning themselves for a presidential run, but the focus of House-Senate efforts must not change because of them.
There is serious work to be done. The GOP must unveil an agenda that addresses tax reform, reins in spending, offers regulatory reform for business growth, tackles energy issues, pushes through trade deals and improves our educational system.
While we can continue to show why Obamacare remains a failure, we do not have 60 votes in the Senate to repeal it. But we can make some changes, such as repealing the medical device tax. If Obama and Senate Democrats reject these ideas through the veto pen or the filibuster, it will be obvious to Americans just who is obstructing progress.
Immigration, however, remains the elephant in the room for Republicans. The President is likely going to move his chess piece on this first issue through executive orders this year. While the GOP won’t ever have an amnesty style bill that the Democrats have proposed in the past, Republicans must offer a version of immigration reform in order to attract Hispanic voters and take the issue off the table.
Speaker of the House John Boehner constantly reminded Americans that hundreds of bills that have passed the House now remain trapped in the United States Senate. That talking point will no longer exist under Republican control. While members of the GOP are slapping each other on the back for the hard-fought and well-deserved victory, the Republican brand still remains stagnant outside the beltway and must be fixed.
The starting bell for next year has already rung. It’s time for Republicans to shine and prove that they can successfully navigate this new journey forward. The election victory is theirs to build upon, or lose again very shortly.
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