In two days, the members of the House of Representatives are being asked to vote for a Speaker who will push through an agenda in 100 days. The question remains: what agenda? I will not vote for any speaker until I know the complete answer to that question.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said Trump has turned politics on its head and that Trump "heard a voice in this country that no one else heard."
Some of us were listening to the voices of the forgotten and downtrodden American workers. Some of us have been struggling to carry that message to the elites and media in D.C. who have, until now, paid no attention to what those voices had to say.
Tuesday was not a surprise. It was a referendum, a call to attention and action by those who for years have felt abandoned by the political insiders, party elites, and corporate media that control Washington, D.C.
Not everyone missed what Trump heard. Some of us were listening and many of us have run on these breakthrough issues for years. The fight began with the Tea Party revolution in 2010 when folks made it very clear they were not happy with how things were being run in D.C.
Afterwards, GOP leadership promised to repeal Obamacare and to end Obama's rule by executive order. They said they would fight "tooth and nail;" but then left the teeth and nails at home.
Instead of a fight, we somehow ended up with the alphabet soup of regulations and orders that are crushing us -- from FDA to EPA to Waters of the USA, to the franchisee rule, the fiduciary rule, and the overtime rule, and don't forget Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. Congress never used the power of the purse to reign in Obama's unconstitutional actions, as promised.
Small businesses are suffering. The labor market is weak; the labor force participation rate is low and economic growth is not anywhere near what it should be. These are the issues the shrinking middle class face.
Why has GOP leadership not placed these issues first? Instead, leadership fought for crony projects like the Export-Import bank and massive secretive trade deals like TPP. While taking up deals on behalf of big business, Congress didn't bother with the issues that matter to struggling Americans back home.
That's what this election was about.
In two days, we will be asked to vote for House Speaker. That Speaker must have an agenda that aligns with the American people's priorities so clearly expressed in this election.
Leadership needs to articulate a detailed plan on this set of issues. But no one running for leadership has yet spelled out what this agenda should include.
While I am a fan of much of the "Better Way" agenda, it is not what fueled or animated this historic insurgent election. "The Better Way" is a very rational set of policy prescriptions put forward by Speaker Ryan, a policy expert, but our leadership has acknowledged that Trump saw something they missed. The "Better Way" agenda has been in play for a year now -- yet Trump saw something new. So what was it?
This isn't about personalities; it's about policy. Given time, it's possible that leadership would put together a list that closely resembles what Americans want.
But we aren't being given time. We're being asked to vote on the Speaker on our first full day back in D.C. And it is absurd to think that we have processed the full meaning and implications of this seismic election in less than a week.
Why the rush? Let's slow down, think and properly plan this so we get it right. Look at what happened in the last two years when we didn't make our agenda absolutely clear to the American people. If we rush this Speaker election, the American people will feel manipulated once again. This is no time to undermine morale and do an end-run around them.
Speaker Ryan promised last year that if elected, he would adhere to regular order. It didn't happen. Instead we find ourselves in a lame-duck budget process with Obama at the negotiating table right before Christmas. Is this what the American people want?
This year, the House didn't even vote on a budget. Instead, we proceeded directly to appropriations bills, spending taxpayer money at an unprecedented $1.07 trillion. This, despite Republican control of both the Senate and the House. The deficit for this year alone is in the $600 billion range.
We face perilous times ahead. The country faces an imminent fiscal crisis, with our debt set to exceed $20 trillion. In 10 years, we will have to deficit finance the entire government and all federal revenues will go to mandatory spending programs, which are set to go insolvent in about 12 years. Our children will not benefit from the current programs and economy that has made this nation great.
Last year, we lost all conservative policy riders, and were forced to accept what Speaker Ryan himself called a "crap sandwich" cromnibus budget deal that was decided behind closed doors by outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama. The deal broke the sequester caps and increased government spending by $30 billion to a historic $1.07 trillion for fiscal year 2017.
Speaker Ryan says that Trump has "earned a mandate" from the American people. Ahead of the vote for Speaker, it is important that we identify exactly what that mandate is, so that we are able to elect a leadership team that will actively champion that mandate.
On November 8th, Americans voted for good paying jobs, for national sovereignty, for America's priorities over those of a global elite, for law and order, for securing the border and temporarily pausing the inflow of foreign refugees from terror hot spots until they can be properly vetted. Americans decisively voted against Obama's rule by pen and by phone, and against Obamacare. We voted for a strong America that does not get rolled by China or Russia. We voted for trade policies that prioritize the needs of American workers; for rolling back the crushing regulations faced by small businesses, and to "drain the swamp" of Washington corruption and ossified Washington cronies.
It is overwhelmingly clear where America stands.
Many now act as if the course forward is obvious. Let's just get it done. Let's just compromise and unify and make it happen.
Republicans have led the House for six years. I want to make sure that we unify around the agenda the American people just mandated.
With a Republican president and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, we have a momentous opportunity.
From our leadership, I ask for clear, unambiguous answers on how they will pursue the agenda the American people voted for. I am happy to vote for anyone who does so. I will not vote for anyone who does not have this agenda on paper for the American people to see. That is what the people I represent demand and deserve.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) is a member of the Budget Committee and the House Freedom Caucus. Before serving in Congress, he worked for the World Bank assisting developing world economies and was an economics professor and chairman of the economics department at Randolph Macon College.
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