Rep. Keith Rothfus says it is only by electing Donald Trump that House Republicans could realize their agenda
With Donald Trump, you have someone who has pledged to restore congressional oversight, Rothfus says
Editor’s Note: Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s 12th District in the US Congress. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
House Republicans have had a tough decade. Many of us elected in 2010, 2012 and 2014 went to Washington to challenge President Obama’s big-government, progressive agenda that was sending our country down the wrong track, driving up debt, and imposing growth-choking, Washington-knows-best regulations on our health care, financial services, energy and other industries.
Although President Obama and congressional liberals blocked many of our efforts, we have enacted critical opioid, infrastructure, human trafficking and veterans legislation. And while the Obama agenda has not been stopped, it has been slowed. In the past 5½ years, congressional Republicans blocked, among other things:
- an additional $850 billion in deficit spending;
- income tax increases on 99% of the American people;
- the closing of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center; and
- a job-killing carbon tax.
We’ve also exposed agencies and high-ranking officials who violated fundamental precepts of public service. We’ve put bills on the President’s desk to repeal Obamacare and block implementation of onerous EPA rules. And the Senate has exercised its constitutional prerogative to decline consideration of the Supreme Court nominee of a President who has willfully overstepped his constitutional limits.
A platform for the future
Another important thing we have done is to develop a first-of-its-kind platform: A Better Way. If implemented, A Better Way would not only restore American leadership in the world, it would generate a true economic expansion that would lift wages, increase job opportunities and generate revenues that will help us keep the commitments we’ve made to our seniors and veterans.
But our proposals for health care, tax and regulatory reform, strengthening security and generating upward mobility will only become reality if someone in the White House signs our legislation. That is the fulcrum on which we sit. We simply cannot afford another four years of sputtering zero to 2% economic growth. That is the consequence if A Better Way is not enacted into law. Hillary Clinton’s status quo, big-government policies will only lead to more debt, doubt and decline.
While I appreciate the concerns I hear from some constituents and fellow members about the choices the American people face this November, I encourage everyone to consider something that has been missing in this debate. It actually concerns one of the planks in our Better Way platform, and that has to do with the people with which I serve – the members of the United States Congress.
In A Better Way, we describe how Congress can reclaim its constitutional responsibilities. Those responsibilities go to the heart of the notion of self-rule. Our Founders recognized that in our country, the people are the sovereign. The people exercise that sovereignty through elected representatives, who in turn enact laws to which the people are subject. If the people do not consent to those laws, they can change their representatives.
Our regulatory, administrative superstate, however, has replaced the sovereignty of the American people with the sovereignty of unelected and unaccountable Washington bureaucrats. While the American people can replace the members of Congress, they cannot replace the unelected bureaucrats who have promulgated 600 major rules over the last seven years that will have an estimated cost of billions to implement. Those rules are among the man-made headwinds that are strangling economic growth, keeping wages stagnant and forcing jobs overseas.
When you couple the regulatory leviathan with our broken appropriations process, where Congress gets cornered into take-it-or-leave-it omnibus spending bills that grotesquely limit its spending power, the legislative branch today exercises far less authority than the Constitution grants to it.
But now the good news. Our historic Better Way platform puts us on offense. This is fitting, because we, the people’s representatives, are the ones who should be setting the nation’s policy agenda. It is in Congress where government of, by and for the people happens.
What then, of the Presidential election? The simple fact is that only one of the candidates will sign our proposals. Indeed, Donald Trump has committed to signing the REINS Act, which requires congressional approval before major rules and regulations become effective. Significantly, the REINS Act represents the most far-reaching restoration of congressional constitutional authority in history.
Donald Trump is following our lead on other matters as well. For example, his tax plan has evolved to conform more closely to our tax plan in the Better Way.
Our three branches of government are supposed to be independent and separate. That means, for example that if a Republican were in the White House, a Republican Congress would still be free to exercise its own, independent constitutional role. And there should be a healthy tension between the branches.
I would expect such with a Republican Congress and a Trump administration. Unlike the manner in which congressional Democrats have circled the wagons to defend President Obama’s unconstitutional overreach and Clinton’s email debacle, Benghazi lies and failed tenure at the State Department, I fully expect to see a Republican Congress hold a President Trump accountable.
We have already seen, for example, members of our party disagree with Trump when he expresses opinions that are inconsistent with their own.
Holding President Trump accountable
Holding a President Trump accountable includes ensuring he keeps the commitments he has made to conservatives, especially regarding nominations to the Supreme Court. Who knows, as we conduct such oversight, it is possible our Democratic colleagues may finally understand that a large part of the past six years of GOP House control has not been about like or dislike of President Obama, but about his failed policies and the protection of institutional, constitutional prerogatives of the United States Congress.
And while a Trump administration will be subject to checks and balances from a Republican Congress, I expect a President Trump to exercise the executive branch’s checks and balances as well.
It would be great to see Trump help Congress find spending discipline by forcing Congress to abandon its bipartisan, spend-by-omnibus tradition. He should veto any of these thousand-page, trillion-dollar bills that reach his desk.
In doing so, he would be following through on President Reagan’s 1988 admonition that “Congress shouldn’t send another one of these” to the President. President Reagan never made good on his veto threat for such bills; President Trump should. He should accompany that veto with a demand that Congress send him a two-week continuing resolution to fund the government temporarily, during which time Congress should work round the clock to get individual appropriations bills to his desk.
None of this happens, however, if Hillary Clinton is President. With Donald Trump, you have someone who has already pledged to sign transformative legislation to restore congressional oversight, has embraced tax reform and health care reform proposals similar to those in A Better Way and pledged to support conservative nominees to the Supreme Court.
Should he not follow through on these commitments, Congress will exercise stringent oversight. In other words, a Trump administration offers a rare opportunity for a resurgent legislative branch.
Ours is a unique moment in history. It is time for Congress to step up and into the role the Founders envisioned for the branch closest to the people. That makes this coming Election Day a date with destiny we should embrace.