Setting the 2017 Policy Agenda
No more favors for the few. Opportunity for all-that is our motto.
—Speaker Paul D. Ryan
Americans are hungry for leaders who will address concerns about the relationship between mobility, economic dynamism, concentrated power, and collusion between special interests and government.
The Heritage Foundation's American Perception Initiative (API) "demonstrates the centrality of the two core themes of this vision-'opportunity' without the corrupting influence of 'favoritism'." That is the central challenge facing our nation: creating opportunity for all and favoritism to none.
While nonbinding and frequently ignored, the budget is an opportunity to put forward a road map to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Heritage market research found conservatives have "high credibility" on issues related to government spending and reform.
A 2013 NRCC poll found a balanced budget message proved to be a winning argument, even in purple districts. The budget should balance at lower spending levels, without gimmicks, and without relying on Obamacare's tax revenues, which will be repealed come 2017.
Recommit to Premium Support
The House and Senate budgets should explicitly reaffirm the GOP's commitment to advancing premium support in Medicare.
Congress must find new leverage points to reassert its constitutional authority and rein in executive overreach—guns, amnesty, environment, labor, etc—during the final year of the Obama administration.
Appropriations riders can be part of the strategy, but final action is unlikely before September. In the interim, riders should be attached to bipartisan priorities that are likely to move through the process.
Given the Obama administration's disregard for Congress's role in our constitutional system of government, the Senate should refuse to confirm the president's nominees unless those nominees are directly related to our national security.
In 1996, Congress reformed one welfare program out of roughly 80 means-tested programs. Heritage market research found the conservative approach to welfare reform "has the ability to significantly increase support for the conservative vision for America."
Strong Work Requirement
The most notable component of the 1996 welfare reform was a work requirement. Any welfare reform proposal should include strong work requirements. Last year in Maine, work requirements for childless, able-bodied adults without dependents caused an 80-percent reduction in that group's food stamp use.
The 1996 reform also froze nominal spending on TANF—a cap that remains in place today. Congress should aim to restore federalism in welfare policy by reducing the long-term federal footprint through real spending reductions and a nominal cap, allowing states to make decisions about how much revenue should be devoted to their welfare programs.
According to Heritage's market research, a fresh start for health care reform "is overall one of the strongest issues on the conservative agenda" and offers "a significant ability to further increase identification with the conservative vision for America."
America's health care system prior to Obamacare was deeply flawed. Any conservative reform proposal should envision a smaller federal role than that which existed before Obamacare, with the goal of reducing overall healthcare costs rather than matching Obamacare's aspiration for universal coverage. At a bare minimum that means reverting back to the pre-Obamacare spending and tax baselines. Simply redirecting and rebranding bloated Obamacare spending towards a less bad system is unacceptable.
The current tax system is stifling opportunity for all Americans, not just corporations. Heritage market research finds that tax reform "is the most relevant issue of the conservative agenda." The conservative approach—fair and simple, reward work and savings, and eliminate loopholes for special interests—"is highly credible and recognized as a strong solution."
The beltway orthodoxy—tax reform should be revenue neutral, distributionally neutral, and conform with other liberal constructs—crippled Mitt Romney's ability to campaign on reform and stifled the most recent congressional effort to draft pro-growth reforms. With revenues as a percentage of GDP approaching Clinton-era levels, congressional reform efforts should reflect this emerging consensus on the right.