The Republican Congress Has a Mandate

January 16, 2015

Originally published in National Review

By Andrew C. McCarthy

The Republican party’s conservative base has a major problem. In assessing the 2014 midterm elections, a tidal wave in which the base propelled the GOP to substantial majorities in both houses of Congress, conservatives are in full agreement with President Obama and completely at odds with Republican leadership.

The president boldly declared that, while he was not on the ballot, his policies were. He could not have been more right.

GOP leadership boldly declares that the election was a case of voters trusting Republicans with an opportunity to “prove we can govern” — to demonstrate that GOP lawmakers can work effectively with the president. They could not be more wrong.

November was all about Obama’s liberty-strangling, crony-coddling, financially reckless agenda. Voters emphatically defeated these policies. The American people want them stopped. That is what they sent Republicans to Washington to do. That is the mandate from the midterms.

Consequently, it is also the clarion call of the Citizens’ Mandate from the November 2014 Elections, issued on Thursday by conservative leaders from across the United States. The title of the Citizens’ Mandate is straightforward: “Stop the Fundamental Transformation of America.”

To “fundamentally transform the United States of America” was the vow Barack Obama made on the eve of his first election in 2008. Thankfully, it turns out that the vast majority of Americans love their country the way it is. We do not want it transformed — much less “fundamentally” so. We do not deny that we have problems, as every human society always does. We also believe, however, that human freedom — the God-given liberty secured by our Constitution — is the best problem-solving device ever created.

We also know that Washington, as it has dramatically expanded, particularly over the last six years, is more apt to cause problems than to solve them.

Because the president has been determined to transform a nation that does not wish to be transformed, he has had to do it in contravention of our laws and constitutional processes. Obviously, changing our Constitution, our laws, and our traditions is what “fundamental transformation” is about. Because the president’s opposition in Congress has been feckless, he has succeeded in governing imperiously, against the will of the people. And he has been emboldened to do more of the same.

The election was about stopping him.

The people who gave Republicans their resounding victory are not foolish enough to believe Republicans can “govern.” GOP leaders who profess to be “constitutional conservatives” should realize that our system is not designed that way. Governing, the day-to-day execution of law and policy, is principally the task of the executive branch.

Of course, Congress can do a great deal to influence how the nation is governed. It can legislate expressions of the popular will. It can conduct oversight hearings to hold the administration accountable. It can use the Senate’s exclusive power over confirmation of executive and judicial nominees to exclude radical candidates and exercise leverage against executive overreach. It can exploit the power of the purse to stop lawless or misguided presidential initiatives and halt the expansion of government.

But Congress cannot govern.

Republicans will not be able to govern unless and until there is a Republican in the White House. The voters who elected Republicans do not expect them to govern for the next two years. Those voters expect Republicans to stop the policies that Americans overwhelmingly rejected in November. Americans don’t need Washington to “work”; they need Washington to stop working against them.

The mandate of the election is to repeal Obamacare in a rational way. Voters understand that the president would veto a repeal of his signature “achievement” and that, despite being trounced in the midterms, Democrats still have the congressional numbers to defeat an override. Republicans, however, are far from powerless. They can use the power of the purse to defund aspects of Obamacare; they can legislate free-market alternatives that show the nation there is a better way than Washington central planning to provide affordable health care that gives consumers the doctors and coverage of their choice while promoting medical innovation. Indeed, with Obamacare facing daunting court challenges in the coming months, it is essential that Republicans be ready with a market-based rather than government-dictated response.



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