Renew the Fight for Smaller, More Accountable Government

I’ve asked my colleagues for the privilege of serving as Republican Leader because I’ve tried to lead by personal example in the fight for smaller, more accountable government, and I sense that we now have our greatest chance in more than a decade to renew that fight together as a party.

We didn’t win yesterday’s election. But during the 110th Congress, while I have been Leader, House Republicans have learned how to win an issue, even in a toxic political environment, by standing on conservative principles. And knowing how to win an issue gives us the ability to rebuild a majority coalition, one issue at a time.

What do I mean by winning the issue? When the chips were down for our team last spring and gas prices were skyrocketing, I urged that we put all our efforts into championing an “all of the above” energy strategy. We focused relentlessly on the need for such reform throughout the summer, connecting with the concerns of real Americans and illustrating the consequences of a Democrat-controlled Congress. It gave us renewed credibility as reformers that helped prevent deeper GOP losses yesterday. When my colleagues Mike Pence, Tom Price, and Lynn Westmoreland sparked the historic energy protest on the House floor, I and other GOP leaders joined them immediately and did everything in our power to keep it going. Weeks later, as a result of our actions, the Democratic majority lifted the ban on offshore energy drilling.

In addition to helping to prevent deeper Democratic gains in a difficult year, the energy fight added a new signature issue to the GOP arsenal of 21st Century solutions and reform. Working with Governor Sarah Palin and others who represent the future of our party, we need to capitalize on it. Even more importantly, we need to apply the same model to other issues. One such issue is the economy, where Democrats are currently pushing a $300 billion “stimulus” spending bill despite unmistakable evidence that Americans believe cutting taxes is more likely to avert a recession.

Republicans will have many more opportunities to “win the issue” by standing on conservative principles in the next Congress. President-elect Obama has sketched a troubling policy roadmap that will be run through a Congress that has been purchased by powerful liberal special interests. While important conversations will take place in the coming weeks about our party’s future, here are 12 opportunities for Republicans that I consider “no-brainers” for the party of freedom, security, and smaller government:

  • If an Obama presidency means “spreading the wealth around” by raising taxes on small businesses, families and investment to pay for more spending in Washington, DC, Republicans will have no choice but to fight it vigorously in favor of a pro-growth plan for rapid economic recovery.

  • If an Obama presidency means cutting defense and troop funding while we’re fighting a war against terror, Republicans will stand opposed on behalf of our military men and women and the nation they protect.

  • If an Obama presidency means doing the bidding of radical special interests by taking away workers’ right to secret ballot elections, forcing workers to join unions, rolling back school choice for low-income children on behalf of powerful Washington teachers unions, and making it easier for dishonest trial lawyers to extort money through job-killing, frivolous lawsuits, Republicans will fight to put the country’s interests first.

  • If an Obama presidency means blocking production of American energy that would help lower costs, create jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, Republicans will fight for enactment of an energy plan that does “all of the above” – increased conservation, innovation, and domestic production.

  • If an Obama presidency means spending billions of dollars annually on wasteful pork-barrel projects, including taxpayer-funded “monuments to me” and earmarks “airdropped” into bills at the last possible minute to avoid scrutiny, Republicans will fight it vigorously.

  • If an Obama presidency means repealing state and federal laws that protect the rights of unborn children and respect the sanctity of innocent human life, we’ll fight it vigorously.

  • If an Obama presidency means regulating free speech and stifling dissent on the airwaves, Republicans will fight it vigorously.

  • If an Obama presidency means forcing people out of their private health insurance and into a government-run program, Republicans will oppose it and fight for real solutions that keep Americans’ health care in the hands of patients and doctors, not government bureaucrats.

  • If an Obama presidency means ignoring the looming fiscal tsunami in our entitlement programs –- ducking a problem that could eventually make the current financial crisis look like a tempest in a teacup – Republicans will have no choice but to fight it and demand responsible reforms to protect current and future generations of Americans.

  • If an Obama presidency means cutting off job-creating trade with the rest of the world, Republicans will stand opposed and fight to open foreign markets to products created by American workers.

  • If an Obama presidency means blocking investigation of the role Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, ACORN, and subprime mortgages played in the financial meltdown, Republicans will fight for accountability, transparency, and real reform to ensure taxpayers are never again put at such risk.

  • If an Obama presidency means sweeping ethical issues involving Members of Congress under a rug, Republicans will fight for transparency and accountability, while holding ourselves to the highest possible ethical standards.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve tried to lead by example. I’m an outspoken opponent of wasteful pork-barrel earmarks. This is not a new position for me: I’ve had a no-earmarks policy since I came to Congress in 1991, after telling my constituents that if they wanted a Congressman who would go to Washington to raid the federal Treasury on their behalf, they should probably vote for someone else.

I voted against the farm bill this year, as I have in previous years, and made clear that I did not believe it was sufficient for Republicans to simply “vote their districts” on it. My own district is heavily agricultural, but my constituents know I believe passionately that the true economic potential of American farmers and ranchers can never be achieved under big government farm policies.

I have irritated the Washington teachers unions by being a strong advocate for school choice. I am a thorn in the side of job-killing trial lawyers, and an unflinching defender of the sanctity of life who is willing to take on our nation’s disgraceful multi-billion dollar abortion industry.

As Leader, I’ve stood up to John Murtha, Charlie Rangel, Rahm Emanuel, Bill Jefferson, David Obey, and Steny Hoyer, and directly challenged Nancy Pelosi’s hypocritical efforts to sweep all of their abuses and ethical lapses under the rug. I have also insisted that our own members adhere to the highest possible ethical standards, and done my best to enforce it. While RedState readers have not agreed with all my decisions in this regard, I’ve tried to be tough but fair in carrying out this important duty.

As both an individual legislator and Republican Leader, I’ve tried to lead by example, and you always know where I stand. Sometimes my straight-shooting, blunt manner produces moments of candor that get me in trouble in the “elite” media. I come from a blue-collar family with 11 brothers and sisters, and our dad ran a bar. It’s just the way I am, and it’s never held against me here. That’s one of the reasons I appreciate RedState.

The fight for smaller government must be renewed, and Republicans now have an unprecedented opportunity to fully re-engage in it. I’ve asked my colleagues to give me the chance to lead this effort. We’ll win the majority back and rebuild our party in the same manner in which President Lincoln built it and President Reagan renewed it: by standing up for the principles of freedom, security, and individual liberty that have defined the GOP since the beginning and continue to resonate with the American people.

Thank you for the chance to share my vision for the future of our party.