Republicans see Senate control within their grasp in November, but they have struggled to come up with a positive agenda for what they would realistically do with it. President Obama has seized on that weakness, declaring in a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee: “They oppose almost everything. Republicans in Congress love to say no.’’
Ohio senator Rob Portman, the finance chair of the Republican Senate campaign committee, countered that argument at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington this week. He specified four areas of agreement on which he thought a GOP Senate could pass legislation, send it to the House, and then see it land on President Obama’s desk with a reasonable chance there wouldn’t be a veto:
1. The Keystone XL pipeline. Last year, a total of 27 Democrats joined every Republican to pass a non-binding measure supporting the pipeline. Since then, frustration with Obama-administration foot dragging has grown, making it likely a veto-proof majority in favor of Keystone could pass both houses.
2. Trade-promotion authority. President Obama says he wants more flexibility to negotiate international trade agreements. But senate majority leader Harry Reid has done the bidding of labor unions and blocked a Senate vote on the idea. GOP Senate control would break the logjam.
3. Easing regulation. President Obama has championed the idea of using a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate proposed federal regulations before they are issued — although the execution has been uneven and, in the case of the Obama’s war on coal, a distortion of the concept. Portman thinks tougher language requiring more stringent examination of regulations would easily pass a GOP Senate.
4. Tax reform. Many Democrats profess to agree with Republicans that high U.S. corporate-tax rates impede economic growth. The White House has championed tax reform but balked at any idea that doesn’t increase federal revenue at the same time. But if a bill lands on Obama’s desk, he will be under pressure from his party’s business supporters to sign it.
“These are four things that could happen that I think would be great for the economy,’’ Portman told the reporters present at the breakfast.