Washington The Republican agenda for the new Congress that convenes Wednesday may have a greater impact on the 2012 elections than on the lives of Americans in the next two years.
Republicans promise to cut spending, roll back President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and prevent unelected bureaucrats from expanding the government’s role in society through regulations that tell people what they must or can’t do. Getting this agenda through the House may be easier than in the Senate, given the GOP’s 241-194 majority in the House. Getting the Senate to act will be a challenge. Democrats still hold an edge there, though smaller than the one Obama had during his first two years in the White House.
Even if the next two years end in gridlock, Republicans will have built a record for the next election that they hope will demonstrate to voters that they can get it right.
House Republicans also pledge to hold tough investigations and hearings on the president’s programs and policies, ending the free pass that Democratic committee chairmen gave the Obama administration the past two years.
Republicans insist that they’ll bring key administration officials before congressional microphones and that the public can watch the webcasts. The friendly tone of inquiry from Democratic chairmen will be replaced by Republicans demanding answers to these questions: What’s the purpose of this program? Is this the best use of the taxpayers’ money?
The chief Republican investigator, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, is raring to get started, and he’s not alone. Issa, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been especially critical of what he calls waste in Obama’s economic stimulus spending.
“The sooner the administration figures out that the enemy is the bureaucracy and the wasteful spending, not the other party, the better off we’ll be,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, incoming leader of the House Appropriations Committee, says he wants top officials from all major government agencies to appear and justify their spending.
The next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican Fred Upton of Michigan, says he’ll work to stop over-zealous government regulators. A big target for him is the Environmental Protection Agency, which is writing rules to limit greenhouse gases blamed for global warming after Obama’s effort to get Congress to do it stalled in the Senate last year.
“We are not going to let this administration regulate what they’ve been unable to legislate,” he told Fox.
Upton, like Issa, will have a large investigative staff.
“Republicans need to make sure they bring forward solutions, even though it may be difficult to get them accomplished,” Rep.-elect Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said in an interview. She said the lesson from the November election is, “The American people will replace people if they’re no longer in touch or listening.”
Noem benefited from that view, defeating Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Noem has risen to the forefront of the freshman class; she was chosen to serve in the GOP leadership.
In the Senate, there’s a chance the Democrats will replace Republicans as the party of “no,” assuming the House GOP passes much of its agenda. Democrats will control the Senate 51-47 with two independents, and only need 41 votes to block initiatives that arrive from the House.