Paul Ryan’s Fork in the Road

Paul Ryan with Flags Andrew Harnik, AP
Andrew Harnik/AP
washington, dc

Paul Ryan has an opportunity as the new Speaker of the House, but it’s going to take courage to stand up to the failed status quo in Washington.  He’s well equipped to make the pivot, if he’s willing to show some guts.  He’s already seen firsthand what failed business as usual on Capitol Hill looks like, where things like trillion dollar backroom deals, more debt, no real debate, and less accountability have become the order of the day.  The dismal record of the past seven years has caused enough frustration to force millions of Americans to give up hope on the idea that government can make competent decisions.

As soon as Paul Ryan gets handed the Speaker’s gavel, he’s going to arrive at a fork in the road.  One direction is the easy path forward, which is more of the same; bowing to President Obama’s threats, legislating from crisis to crisis, and punishing Members for voting their conscience.   The other direction is much more difficult.  That direction calls for seizing the initiative by making Congress once again a co-equal branch of government.  The conservative majority in the House of Representatives can re-assume control of the public policy debate in this country.

Paul Ryan could change the entire dynamic in Washington by trying the obvious.  He should put a half-dozen popular conservative reforms on a piece of paper and tell the American people he’s going to hold a vote on them before the end of the year.  Sound familiar?  That’s because it was done – successfully – twenty years ago this year.  The 104th Congress led by Newt Gingrich took control of Congress by offering a “Contract with America” to American citizens.  Upon taking office, House Republicans voted on the contract in 100 days.  It’s not rocket science, just some well-timed common sense in the midst of chaos.  Ryan can send a signal to the American people that Republicans stand for reform and putting an end to the failed status quo that Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, and Reid so desperately want to keep in place.

If Ryan makes the decision to drive the agenda, one thing has to be kept in mind going forward.  Losing on some votes is not failure; it’s called legislating.  Americans will respect the Ryan Congress for standing up for what it says it believes in and putting the principles up for a vote.  Holding a vote on congressional term limits and a balanced budget amendment would send shockwaves through this broken system and have the American people taking notice of what party is trying to change things.

My organization Citizens United has released its own “21st Century Pact with American Citizens.”  It’s simply a list of ten common sense reforms and conservative beliefs we think would lead to a more optimistic future for our children and grandchildren.  If you think some of these items make sense, send them to your Representatives and Senators and ask them to take decisive action – finally.

Defend the Constitution

Sadly, assaults on the First and Second amendments to the U.S. Constitution are becoming the new normal in America.  Free speech, religious liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms are non-negotiable.

Secure the Border/End Sanctuary Cities/Stop Government Benefits for Illegal Immigrants

Our leaders in Washington must stop ignoring the American people on this issue.  Our border must be secured, our immigration laws must be enforced, and illegal immigrants must not have better access to government benefits than hardworking American taxpayers and veterans.

Balanced Budget Amendment

Fiscal sanity has been absent from our political process for some time. A Balanced Budget Amendment would require the federal government to live within its means, being only able to spend what it takes in, instead of racking up more debt that will cripple future generations.

Defund Planned Parenthood

The recent videos are an American tragedy that needs to be dealt with immediately.  Planned Parenthood must be defunded and thoroughly investigated. 

Strong National Defense/Acknowledge, Confront, Destroy Islamic Terrorism

The primary role for the federal government is to protect its citizens and to provide for the common defense. The maxim of “Peace through Strength” served our country well.

Repeal and Replace Obamacare

This is about more than getting rid of an awful law. The economy and job market are still suffering, and the burdensome regulations and uncertainty created by this law are stifling economic growth. Free market American solutions to our health care system are the best path forward.

Tax Code Reform

Our current tax code is an incredibly convoluted mess that has the government picking winners and losers. We must work to simplify the tax code, minimize the tax burden on all Americans, or, ideally, eliminate the IRS with a new tax system so that our citizens can decide how to spend their hard earned money.

 Entitlement Reform

Long-term entitlement liabilities are the true challenge when it comes to government spending and debt.  Any reform package must safeguard benefits for current recipients, while preserving the programs for future generations in a fiscally responsible and accountable way.

Comprehensive Domestic Energy Policy

America must continue to develop policies that create jobs, move us toward energy independence, and unlock all our natural resources so we no longer rely on corrupt foreign governments who hate America as our energy sources.

Congressional Term Limits Amendment

Many of the problems we see today could be solved if there were not entrenched, out of touch officeholders running Congress. Our system was not intended to have a legion of career politicians serving decades, often for their own benefit.