New Year, New Congress: Possibilities for (Good) Policy in 2015

Another year is upon us, and with it a new Congress under new-ish management. Although the dude who ultimately signs the bills isn’t going to put his autograph on many of the good things that a Republican Congress may pass, there is still plenty that the new Congress can accomplish next year.

  • ObamaCare: Republicans can and should use the budget process known as “reconciliation” to put a bill repealing ObamaCare on President Obama’s desk. Forcing Democrats to keep defending (or, even better, not defending) the government takeover of health care is essential, as the distortions ObamaCare is causing in America’s health care system become ever more evident..

  • Budget: After five years in which Harry Reid’s Senate failed to either pass a full budget resolution on time or to pass even a fraction of the actual spending bills that fund the government, it is crucial that Republicans return to a full and transparent budget process. This means having a full amendment process where changes to spending levels and agencies can be considered in the light of day, unlike the shadowy omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions that have become the norm since Obama and Reid came to power.

  • NSA Reform: Although the collapse of various NSA reform efforts in 2014 was discouraging, 2015 may actually offer an even better opportunity to make meaningful progress in restoring Americans’ 4th Amendment protections against warrantless search and seizure. Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which is being used to justify the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, is set to expire in June 2015, giving the huge bi-partisan coalition for digital privacy reform good leverage to push for reforms.

  • Criminal Justice Reform: Bills to reform the criminal justice system have brought the likes of Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Corey Booker, and Dick Durbin together behind legislation that has a real chance of seeing movement in 2015. From lowering mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders, to stopping the government from seizing innocent Americans’ property and money, aspects of positive criminal justice reform appear to have a true chance of becoming law if the leadership in Congress will allow it.

  • Tax Reform: At times, even President Obama has seemed open to signing corporate tax reform – a welcome possibility since American businesses currently labor under the highest total corporate tax rate in the developed world. A bi-partisan deal that doesn’t result in a net tax increase would be tricky, but it’s not impossible.

  • End Ex-Im: Thanks to efforts by conservatives in Congress and a strong push by the grassroots, there is a very real possibility that the corporate welfare distribution agency known as the U.S. Export-Import Bank may finally be allowed to expire in June of 2015. All Congress has to do is nothing to end this obsolete and market-distorting relic of the New Deal.

In addition to these major achievable goals, a Republican controlled Senate should quickly pass a number of the great limited-government reforms that the House has been passing since 2011. It may be that a few of them get past Harry Reid’s filibusters and the President’s menacing veto pen. Even if they don’t, putting Senate Democrats (and Republicans, for that matter) on the record on some of these crucial bills would be useful for future efforts if, say, the next occupant of the White House proves to be more amenable to liberty and free markets than at present.