If the House GOP Ruled
A thought experiment on serious rollback of overweening Washington power.

Rep. Paul Ryan holds a copy of the GOP budget proposal at a press conference on April 5, 2011.


Let’s conduct a little thought experiment. Imagine that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives ran things in Washington. Unilaterally. No need to negotiate with the Senate or assemble two-thirds majorities to overturn those pesky presidential vetoes.

Imagine that legislation commanding majority support in the current House would become law immediately upon passage. What might our nation and our world look like?

This is not an altogether quixotic exercise. A thorough review of roll-call votes cast since the 2010 electoral upheaval allows us to approximate the world view that guides the 243-member House Republican caucus.

Such a review reveals a conception of America — and America’s role in the world — as ambitious, and conservative, as that of any previous congressional majority.

Indeed, from a political perspective many of these votes qualify as truly heroic (or, for those hewing to a leftist viewpoint, truly demonic). Viewed in its entirety, the agenda overwhelms. It would: repeal Obamacare; place a firm limit on how much in taxes Washington can take from our paychecks; require federal bureaucracies to think before they regulate; restore considerable authority and decision-making power to state governments; and alter the structural DNA of two of the Big Three entitlement programs — Medicare and Medicaid. (Fundamental overhaul of Social Security, it seems, will have to wait.).

In a nutshell, the GOP House agenda would place the federal government on a fiscally sustainable path without eviscerating national security. America would reclaim its status as one of the freest and most opportunity-laden economies in the world. There would be real and enforceable limits on the power of the federal government. And our ability to defend America’s interests around the world would be robust and enduring.

If you think this sounds like the equivalent of a second American Revolution, you’re right.

So, what exactly happened in our thought experiment?

First, the 112th Congress repealed every jot and tittle of Obamacare on its first day of business. All the House Republicans, joined by three Democrats, voted to undo the single largest expansion of federal regulatory, fiscal, and taxing authority in American history. Not a bad start.

Next, the House Republicans approved, en masse, the budget blueprint sponsored by Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). “No budget in decades,” my colleague Alison Fraser wrote, “has had the potential for so fundamentally improving the nation’s prosperity and restoring its vast promise.”

Within it, one finds many transformative ideas. Among them:

Medicare and Medicaid are reformed to blunt much of the fiscal carnage they are projected to inflict on future generations. If House Republicans ruled the world, Medicare would be restructured so that each senior received a fixed government contribution to help pay for a portion of the health plan of his or her choice. Meanwhile, Medicaid’s open-ended financing arrangement, which violates every reasonable conception of federalism, would give way to block grants with a fixed federal contribution to the states. In exchange, states would enjoy greater flexibility to design their programs to better serve those in need. The tax code is completely overhauled. Special-interest tax deductions, credits, and exclusions are eliminated in favor of a growth-inspiring across-the-board reduction in tax rates. The top tax rate drops to 25 percent on both individual and corporate income, placing the United States squarely within the international norm and making us much more competitive in the global economy. Except for defense, the remaining areas of federal spending are frozen — hard — at pre-Obama (2008) spending levels. This reduces projected spending by a cool $1.6 trillion over the next decade.

Collectively, these reforms shook official Washington to its core, registering at 9.0 on the political and policy Richter scales. Significantly, they garnered the support of all but four House Republicans.

Next in the majority’s sights: the suffocating blanket of federal regulatory activity, which has dismayed and befuddled entrepreneurs, throttled job creation, and sapped the economic recovery of virtually all vitality. Here the House Republicans cast some of the most politically courageous votes imaginable, votes that their opponents will undoubtedly try to exploit relentlessly.

In 2011 the House majority voted literally dozens of times to roll back federal regulatory excesses in areas affecting energy production, the workplace, the power of labor unions, higher education, and federal lands. Except for some elements of the union agenda, House Republicans remained remarkably united around the premise that the mounting regulatory burden placed on American businesses and consumers must be reduced.

Efforts to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency dominated the rollback agenda. Over 90 percent of House Republicans remained united on restoring common sense to a wide variety of environmental standards, ranging from fossil-fuel combustion waste, to dredged fill material, to air-quality standards for particulate matter, to mercury emissions from cement plants, to dust kicked up by routine farm operations. Ditto for bills addressing the need to construct terminals to process liquefied natural gas, plans to drill for oil and natural gas off our coasts, and the regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions. Each time, the overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted to exert congressional authority and confront the runaway administrative state head-on.