Republicans


Budget Danger Ahead

I have a new article up at National Review Online on why danger lurks for Republicans, and the nation, in the debt-ceiling showdown:

Democrats want a deal that doesn’t give an inch on what really matters to their voting base — which is the entitlement status quo....

To further that goal, the president and his allies are playing a familiar card. It’s not that they are against entitlement “reform,” they say, it’s just that they want to protect the beneficiaries from any financial sacrifice. And so we learn in recent days (see here and here) that Democrats are willing to put sizeable Medicare and Medicaid “cuts” on the table....

These kinds of changes in Medicare and Medicaid are nothing new. Various versions of them have been included in every budget deal going back 30 years, and most especially in the bipartisan deals of 1990 and 1997. They do not constitute genuine entitlement reform. They will not fix Medicare and Medicaid. And they will not solve the nation’s budget problem....

Read the whole article here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 5:09 pm
Tags: budget, debt ceiling, Medicare, Medicaid, Republicans, Democrats
File As: Health Care

More Advice for the New Congress

I will have several posts here today and tomorrow to catch up on a raft of things I’ve recently written in print and online. For starters, in the latest issue of National Affairs, I offer advice to the new Congress on a broad range of questions. A couple of brief examples:

Republicans will have to show voters that it is the need to revive the economy — not a blind desire to slash spending — that underlies their agenda. Fostering growth requires, for instance, smart regulation that keeps the marketplace fair and open without suffocating the private sector; a tax code that minimizes burdens on productive work; a commitment to free trade and open global markets; and a sound monetary policy that assures predictability and long-term stability (rather than short-term remedies that only perpetuate debilitating cycles of boom and bust). Above all, fostering growth requires a government that lives within its means.

Republicans must also be honest with voters about what this will involve, and must clearly understand the limits of their own power. This time, easy budget proposals like slashing earmarks and trimming bureaucracy will only go so far. Our fiscal problems demand much broader reform — in particular, a vast simplification of America’s tax code and a fundamental restructuring of major entitlement programs. Social Security must be made to conform with demographic reality; health-care costs must be constrained by the discipline of a consumer-directed marketplace. In short, policymakers need to rebuild the most important pillars of America’s social contract....

In 1995 and ’96, the appropriations process became the most high-profile arena in which the newly elected Republican Congress — led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich — wrestled with President Bill Clinton over matters of policy. Like the incoming class of 2010, the congressional class of 1994 was determined to reverse spending trends on a host of domestic programs, particularly those long favored by Democrats (especially in the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education). The resulting budget fight — which culminated in a government shutdown of about three weeks — did not work out well for Republicans.... Republicans coming to Washington in 2011 will certainly want to avoid these mistakes. They will therefore need to develop a shrewd tactical plan for appropriations — one that avoids the traps into which the Gingrich Congress fell, allows Republicans to halt further growth in the budget, and enables them to identify and seize opportunities to make major, targeted spending cuts....

The full essay is available here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 1:53 pm
Tags: Congress, Republicans, federal budget
File As: Health Care

Advice for the New Congress

With the 112th Congress convening for the first time tomorrow, I’ve offered some advice in the New York Times Room for Debate series to the leadership of the House of Representatives on what they should focus on in the months ahead:

The lengthy lame duck session of the 111th Congress so dominated the news last month that it is easy to forget what happened in early November. In the president’s words, the mid-term election was a “shellacking,” with Republicans picking up more than 60 seats in the House and six in the Senate.

Republican candidates won because they campaigned hard on restraining government spending. That struck a chord with an electorate that has become alarmed at the rapid run-up of debt over the past two years.

Republican veterans know that spending restraint is easier said than done. In the abstract, cutting back on government always has appeal. The political problems occur when the cuts become specific to certain programs and agencies.

The Tea Party movement should help Republicans stay true to their word. Never before was there such a strong grassroots movement of voters pushing House and Senate members to carry out real cuts in government spending.

The power of this new movement was on display in the failure of the lame-duck Congress to pass the “omnibus” appropriations bill. For many voters, that bill symbolized all that is wrong with current spending practices. Senate Democrats waited until the very last minute to unveil their plan, and when they did it was business-as-usual earmarking and steady growth in government spending. The demise of the “omnibus” would seem to mark the end of an era.

Of course, Republicans will only control the House in the 112th Congress. They won’t be able to unilaterally impose their will. And when they begin to announce specific cuts, they will come under fierce attack from defenders of the status quo. It’s inevitable that some of the cuts they would like to make won’t survive that process.

That’s why Congressional Republicans would be wise to reach out to conservative and moderate Democrats right away on budget matters. After November, many of those Democrats do not want to be seen by their constituents as big spenders. Drawing them in may require some additional early compromise. But it will be worth it if Republicans are able to build a durable center-right coalition capable of withstanding the political heat that always accompanies efforts to cut the size of government.

The original post is available here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 7:41 pm
Tags: federal budget, Tea Party, Congress, Republicans
File As: Health Care

Is There a Republican Plan for Health Care?

The New York Times invited several conservative and libertarian analysts to comment on the Republican approach to health care. Here's my contribution:

House Republicans have already offered an alternative to what the Democratic majority was pushing in 2009. They, and their counterparts in the Senate, would suffer no political consequences if they chose not to go any further than what’s already been proposed. Republicans didn’t drive the legislative process into the political ditch; the Democrats did, and voters know it.

Moreover, the public has been unnerved by what’s taken place over the last year. The administration and Congress were using every lever at their disposal to try to pass a sweeping reform program that was plainly at odds with what the public wanted. Quite understandably, they do not trust that the political process is capable of producing a sensible, consensus-driven reform program that can garner broad bipartisan support. Consequently, for the time being, they would rather see the whole subject go away and move on to other more pressing topics.

But it does seem unlikely that the Democratic majority will be able to walk away from the effort that easily. It is quite possible that Congressional leaders will reach out to Republicans to try and forge a compromise around a more targeted measure. If that call does come, Republican leaders should insist on three things.

First, states must be given the lead role in reform, not the federal government. And they should have the flexibility to implement programs without having to jump over bureaucratic hurdles put up by federal agencies. Second, state-based high-risk pools, not cumbersome insurance regulation, should be enlarged and reformed to help those with pre-existing conditions get affordable private insurance. And third, to begin to control costs, there must be meaningful medical malpractice reform nationwide.

Anything much beyond these ideas will begin to weigh down the effort, and lead to its collapse as well.

The entire mini-symposium, which includes a contribution from Keith Hennessey, is on the NYT website here.

posted by James C. Capretta | 8:18 pm
Tags: Republicans, Democrats
File As: Health Care