Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, has a plan to shock his team into realizing how not to manage their agenda when the new, and more Republican, Congress starts work next year.
"I thought of hanging up in the Republican cloakroom photographs of Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman because they symbolize what the federal government has done wrong during the last two years: not just to head in the wrong direction, but to try to go there all at once," he says. "This has been government by taking big bites of several big apples and trying to swallow them all at once, which has had the effect of enraging Republicans and terrifying the independent voters of America." [See who gives the most to Nancy Pelosi.]
In a speech slated for Friday at the Hudson Institute, Alexander will be the latest Republican leader to herald last month's election as a pivot point where the nation has decided to shift from a progressive path heading toward a nanny state, to an era of "exceptionalism" where Americans take care of themselves. His point about using pictures of Pelosi and Waxman, the outspoken liberal: "Those who were elected in 2010 should proceed step-by-step in the right direction to solve problems in a way that re-earns the trust of the American people rather than invent comprehensive conservative big government schemes in an attempt to correct comprehensive liberal big government schemes." Excerpts of his Friday speech were provided in advance to Whispers.
Reviewing the Democratic wreckage following the election that put Republicans in charge of the House, Alexander says, "Within the last two years, the progressive solution symphony has been playing in Washington again, reaching a new a crescendo with budgets that double the debt in five years and triple it in ten, with government bailouts, auto companies, takeover of the student loan industry and, as one person has suggested, the appointment of more new Czars and Czarinas than the Romanovs ever had." [See a gallery of political caricatures.]
Voters, he says, decided against that progressive path, and now the GOP has the numbers to build a roadblock to more spending. "As a result of the 2010 elections, we have enough clout to stop risky, comprehensive schemes featuring more taxes, debt, and Washington takeovers as well as lots of hidden and unexpected surprises."
A House leader on background said that the Republican-Democrat debate will expand further early next year when Republicans start to suggest that the 2012 election should give voters a choice between limited government and cradle-to-grave benefits like healthcare and retirement. "It will be an election pitting American exceptionalism and ingenuity versus a European style welfare state," said the House leader.
But Alexander isn't calling for a radical shift, the kind he says Pelosi pushed through on issues like healthcare and financial bailouts. "Trying to eliminate the annual deficit in the first year would turn the nation upside down. It is at points like this that the photographs of Pelosi and Waxman in the cloakroom become useful," he says. But he will lay out steps the GOP will push immediately:
-- Bar new entitlement spending programs.
-- Pass no new unfunded mandates on states.
-- Cap discretionary spending.
-- Divert the half trillion in Medicare savings that was spent on new entitlement programs in the new healthcare law to make Medicare solvent.
-- Create a two-year budget—this would allow Congress to spend every other year on oversight, repealing, and revising laws and regulations that are out of date or wasteful.
-- Give the rest of the government's General Motors stock to every American who paid federal income taxes last April.
In urging Republicans to act, Alexander says that his party has been given a rare second chance to rein in spending, a job the GOP was given in 1994 when voters gave the party control of the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. "Fifteen years ago Republicans captured control of Congress during one of those recurring outbursts when American voters announce that they want less of Washington, and more decisions for themselves. That advice was not well heeded and now we find ourselves the political beneficiaries of another such outburst and an opportunity to lay the groundwork to be a governing party within two years," he says in his Friday speech. "Our argument is that America's exceptionalism is best realized by the largest number of individuals when they live in a country in which they expect less of Washington, and more of ourselves."