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What a Republican Majority Has Not Meant


It has been more than a year now since the Republicans gained an absolute majority in Congress and the White House. The road to this majority began in the third year of Bill Clintons first term. The Republicans gained complete control of the 104th Congress (19951997), held on to control in the 105th Congress (19971999), and remained in power during the 106th Congress (19992001) through the end of Clintons presidency.

After 40 years of Democratic rule, the Republican majority in the Congress during most of Clintons term in office appeared at the time to be a welcome sight. But because the presidency eluded them, the Republicans seemed to have an excuse for not rolling back the welfare state, even though it is the legislative branch that passes all legislation not the executive branch. And besides, Clinton made a good scapegoat. Then, if only for a brief moment, it appeared finally to be official there was an absolute Republican majority in the House, a 50-50 split in the Senate with a Republican vice president to break ties, and a Republican president in the White House. But when Jim Jeffords, the Republican senator from Vermont, switched from being a Republican to being an Independent on May 24, 2001, the Republican majority fizzled, giving the GOP another excuse.

But then, no more excuses. The 108th Congress, which took office in January of last year, was solidly Republican. But since the Republicans have gained control of the Congress, the federal budget (over $2 trillion) and the federal deficit (over $500 billion) are the highest ever, the national debt is over $7 trillion (and increasing an average of $2 billion per day), hundreds of Americans have died on foreign soil, and Americans have even less liberty now than they had before. This time, however, the Republicans have no excuses. The lame excuse that they are not responsible because they didnt control the entire government will not work anymore. And the even lamer excuse that the defection of Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords so early in Bushs presidency didnt give the Republican majority enough time to do anything wont work either.

The Republicans have now had total control an absolute Republican majority for more than a year. And what did they do during this time? The usual nothing. No egregious legislation was repealed. The welfare state was not rolled back an inch. No federal programs or departments were eliminated. No budgets were cut. In fact, legislation got worse (the USA PATRIOT Act), the welfare state was strengthened (a new prescription drug plan), and a new federal department was created (Homeland Security). So now that the initial euphoria over an absolute Republican majority has subsided and the Republicans have been in charge for a year, the Republican record can be soberly addressed.

There is only one way to describe the record of the Republican majority during its first year: a dismal failure. To students of political history, however, this was not only no surprise, it was to be expected and, in fact, predictable on the basis of the actions of the Republican Party in the 20th century, whether they held the presidency, the House, the Senate, or any combination of the three, including an absolute majority. Because the history of the Republican Party is one of compromise after compromise and sellout after sellout, there are a number of things that a Republican majority has not meant, and in fact, will never mean.

Republican sellouts

A Republican majority has not meant any more than it did the last time the Republicans controlled both the Congress and the Oval Office, since the intent of Republicans is not to dismantle the welfare state with its entitlements and income-transfer programs. The 83rd Congress of 19531955, which had the advantage of serving under the Republican president Dwight Eisenhower, represented the last time in recent memory that the Republicans commanded both houses of Congress and the White House. Before then, it was during the first two years of Herbert Hoovers presidency that a Republican Congress convened under a Republican president. With the Republican Eisenhower in the White House, and a Republican majority in Congress, one would think that the entire New Deal could have been repealed and the government restored to at least its preNew Deal levels. Yet during this period, the Bricker Amendment to protect U.S. sovereignty went down in defeat, the Cold War took shape, and the judicial activist Earl Warren was appointed to the Supreme Court. This Republican majority was short-lived, as the voters turned out the Republicans for what was to be the longest tenure of one-party rule in U.S. history.

A Republican majority has not meant anything different from the last time a Republican Congress had to contend with a Democratic president, because the Republicans have no desire to rid the country of affirmative-action policies, anti-discrimination laws, or anything else granting special privileges based on race, sex, perceived victim status, disability, or sexual orientation. Before the Clinton regime, the last time a Republican Congress found itself in this position was during the 80th Congress of 19471949, which assembled during the second half of the first term of the Democrat Harry Truman. One would have to go back to the last half of Woodrow Wilsons second term to find a like occurrence. It is apparent that a Republican majority in Congress for the first time since the New Deal would at least have been able to block the legislative agenda of Harry Truman. But ability and willingness are two different things. After authorizing $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey in 1947 and the $17 billion Marshall Plan in 1948, the Republicans in Congress were still replaced by Democrats in the next election.

A Republican majority has not meant anything different from the last time the Republicans held a majority in the Senate, because the practice of appointing and confirming judges and bureaucrats who trample the Constitution and infringe the liberties of American citizens has never abated. Throughout Ronald Reagans first term, and for the first half of his second one, the Republicans had a majority in the Senate under a Republican president. The only other two times this century that this occurred were during the terms of Hoover and William Taft. Although not possessing a majority in the House of Representatives, with a majority in the Senate, and the most conservative president since Calvin Coolidge, the repeal of Lyndon Johnsons Great Society seemed within reach. Some good was done during the period of this Senate majority, but Sandra Day OConnor, who proved to be a dismal failure to conservatives, was installed on the Supreme Court. The Social Security tax rates were also gradually raised throughout this period, something that cannot be blamed exclusively on a Democratic-controlled House. Further compromise with the Democrats resulted in additional tax reform. A Republican House was never elected to complement the Republican Senate, and the Republicans lost the Senate for the remaining two years of Reagans final term.

A Republican majority has not meant something dissimilar from a Democratic majority with a Republican president, because the Republicans have made no effort to eliminate the laws, mandates, regulations, and restrictions that strangle business and burden the American people. The last Republican president to preside over a Democratic Congress was George H. W. Bush. Every Republican president since Eisenhower has had the disadvantage of serving with a Democratic majority in Congress for at least part of his term, and usually for the entire duration. It was expected that an attempt would be made by Bush to block Democratic legislation. But not only were some horrendous bills passed with the help of Republicans in the House and Senate, President Bush signed them instead of using his veto power. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Civil Rights Act are three notable examples, not to mention the disastrous budget deal that raised taxes.

A Republican majority has not meant any more than business as usual with a complete Democratic majority, because the reckless, globalist foreign policy of the United States is adhered to by most Republicans. The total Democratic control of the government, such as existed under Roosevelt, Truman (second term), Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton (first half of first term), has done much damage to the country. Yet many of the increases in taxes, social spending, and federal powers, with their assault on liberty and private property, were passed with the help of Republicans at the time they were supposed to be the opposition party. Republicans in the House and Senate supported Clintons crime bill and the annual multi-billion dollar foreign aid package.

The solution

It is understood that with a Democrat in the White House, a presidential veto can squelch Republican plans. That excuse may have seemed plausible under the Clinton regime, but it does not hold anymore. No matter how often Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh sing their praises, the Republicans cannot be taken seriously. A Republican majority in Congress and the White House has meant virtually nothing positive for liberty, and will never do so, until they undertake a systematic dismantling of the welfare, regulatory, interventionist state. It is not just a matter of enacting more legislation to combat 40 years of Democratic rule. Limiting spending increases to the rate of inflation is not satisfactory. A balanced-budget amendment is not the answer. Indexing taxes on capital gains to inflation is not the solution. A freeze on federal spending is not enough. Welfare and Social Security reform are not needed. More crime bills will not do. It is pointless to argue that the Republicans will feed the federal leviathan less than the Democrats. Instead of slaying the federal leviathan, bipartisanship, sellout, and compromise will ensure that a Republican majority feeds it instead. Unless the emphasis is on the elimination of all facets of the federal monstrosity, including the repeal of the New Deal of FDR, the Fair Deal of Harry Truman, the Great Society programs of LBJ, the blunders of Republican presidents, and the sellouts of Republican Congresses, a Republican majority will never mean anything positive for freedom.

Ultimately, the solution lies in the hands of the American people. The libertarian principles of the Founders, and especially the limited role of government in a free society, should be on the lips of every American. It is then, and only then, that elected representatives can begin to eliminate the funding and power of the FDA, FTC, EEOC, OSHA, EPA, HHS, HUD, BATF, CPB, NEA, IRS, and all the other acronyms that rob the American people of their money, property, and liberty.

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