When Edward J. (Ed) Feulner, Jr., long-time
President of the Heritage Foundation, and I organized what now is known as the
Republican Study Committee (RSC) 35 years ago, the Republican Leadership in the
House was either liberal (John Anderson) or non-confrontational (Robert
Michel). Aggressive conservatives were shut out of the Leadership. We then were
confronted by the Democratic Study Group (DSG) which at that time was seeking
to have a place in the Democratic Leadership. These were the days of John
McCormack (D-MA) and Carl Albert (D-OK), who went along to get along. Today, of
course the DSG types dominate the House Democratic Leadership. There is no
moderate-to-conservative Democrat in the Leadership. Likewise RSC types
dominate the Republican Leadership. There are clear differences between the
parties in the House.
One of the things Ed Feulner and I urged
conservatives in the House to do was to adduce an agenda of their own. Indeed,
along the years they did so. Whether we are talking about Jack Kemp’s tax
cuts or Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the Republicans did have
an agenda separate from the official leadership.
After Republicans became the majority
party for the first time in 40 years, conservatives left it up to the official
leadership to come up with an agenda. At first that worked fine but by the time
2006 rolled around there was no real agenda except to retain the majority. House
Republicans were adrift.
Not so anymore. The Republican Study
Committee, under the able leadership of Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX),
has proposed an eight-point agenda for which they hope for votes on before the
present 110th Congress adjourns. The problem, of course, is they are no longer
in the majority so the Democrats set the agenda and it is unlikely they will
permit votes on most of these issues.
The one which probably resonates most
around the nation is a moratorium on earmarks. The public is really sold on the
idea that earmarks represent pork-barrel spending. In that connection RCS has
proposed limiting Federal taxing and spending to what middle class families can
Not surprising, RSC is proposing a simple
tax code which Americans can understand. I take that proposal less seriously
since every party in every election in my memory has promised the same thing
and yet the tax code becomes more complex.
The RSC agenda includes a family-focused
patient-centered health care system. That yet might be doable since our health
care system has not been given over completely to the socialists.
The agenda also calls for energy
independence through increased exploration. Congress has been beating up on oil
companies because of the high cost of gasoline. Some energy companies bravely
have pointed out that it is Congress which has prevented exploration. We have
more than enough oil. We simply have not been permitted to drill for it.
Hensarling, in announcing the agenda,
called for the development of a legal framework which allows the United States
to prevent terrorist attacks.
Social-issue conservatives are attracted
to the provision which calls for a moral approach for parents to protect and
educate their children. This includes parental notification for minors who want
an abortion and parental control over the family’s personal educational
Finally, RSC calls for a welfare safety
net which fosters marriage and work. Work requirements would be extended to
food stamps and housing and encouraging parents to marry so that their children
can be reared in two-parent homes. This agenda probably has somewhere between
70 to 80% support in the country. But school prayer always had that kind of
percentage and there has only been one vote in the past 45 years.
One can hope now that the official GOP Leadership
in the House will adopt and push this agenda. These issues are far better than
anything we have heard out of Congress for several years.