“Elections have consequences,” President Obama said, setting his new policy agenda just three days after taking office in 2009. Three elections later, the president’s party has lost 70 House seats and 14 Senate seats. The job of Republicans now is to govern with the confidence that elections do have consequences, promptly passing the conservative reform the voters have demanded.
Commentators and pundits are already suggesting that Republicans need to be careful about what they do now that they control Congress. So do I — I believe we need to be very careful to stand up for what we believe in, and for what the American people voted for.
The Republican-controlled Congress must pass conservative reforms on energy, healthcare, tax reform and education, and give the president the opportunity to do the will of the American people. Let him decide if he wants to be constructive, or if he wants to conclude his presidency as a liberal obstructionist ideologue who vetoes everything.
In the days since the voters handed the President a resounding defeat, he has been defiantly in denial. He issues executive orders to bypass the Congress chosen by the voters. He broods. He pouts. He shows no sign of course correction even though he admitted famously before the vote that his policies were, in fact, on the ballot.
As Republicans, we should be unfazed by the moodiness at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The voters chose an overwhelming Republican majority at every level of government — 31 out of 50 governor’s offices, 59 out of 99 state legislative chambers and the largest Republican House majority since World War II. The mandate for governance requires that we methodically and deliberately roll back the top-down liberal policies the voters rejected and replace them with bottom-up conservative reform that works.
If President Obama actually believes the mantra he gave Republicans back in 2009, then once he works through his tantrum he will agree that the last three elections have also had consequences. Our job as Republican leaders is to give him a chance to do the will of the American voters in his last two years.
We can start with energy. On his best days, the president has bragged about the American energy renaissance and the technology that is making it happen. Republicans in Congress should give him the chance to break away from the creeping liberal orthodoxy that strangled Democratic candidates in the Energy Belt in the last election. We can become the world’s energy superpower; in addition to building the Keystone XL pipeline, here are three easy places for Congress to start: First, enabling game-changing new natural gas and oil production on under-utilized federal lands. Second, fast-tracking construction of new capacity for zero-emissions nuclear power. Third, freezing the administration’s unjustified new restrictions on legacy power generation.
The American public is demanding a common-sense national energy policy that utilizes all sources of domestic energy to give us a stronger hand in foreign policy, to green-light new manufacturing investment that relies on affordable prices, and to drive the economic growth that fuels new environmentally friendly innovation and diversification.
No subject was more important in the 2014 elections than healthcare, and Republicans in Congress should waste no time in taking decisive action in response to the voters’ demands. Obamacare has escalated costs, disrupted coverage, and introduced bad incentives throughout our healthcare system. Congress must repeal Obamacare and send the president a replacement package of reforms that protects freedom and focuses on the real problem with American healthcare — affordability.
Working with the America Next think tank, I’ve outlined a replacement package that will do just that. Yes, it is very possible that President Obama will veto and reject such a reform package. But we should at least give him the opportunity to repeal Obamacare in full and undo his greatest mistake.
Many of the best ideas for conservative healthcare reform will come from the states. Congress should send legislation to the president’s desk to unleash that positive change, taking unnecessary restrictions and mandates off Medicaid programs so that governors and legislators can innovate to better serve the low-income populations in their states. Republican governors have already outlined many of these changes, from modernizing benefit design to simplifying accountability to eliminating unnecessary requirements — all that is required is Washington getting out of the way.
The president gets to choose the attitude he adopts regarding his last two years in office. He can be humble and constructive or defiant and partisan. Republicans would be wise to be oblivious to his emotion and fits of hyperbole and focus only on substance. The public deliberately put conservatives in power. They made that choice in a nationalized election centered on policy. It’s our job to do exactly what they demanded.
Finally, let’s remember this — beginning with Hillarycare in 1993, it took the Left 16 long years to realize their dream of creating a new entitlement program and giving control of the American healthcare system to the federal government. If the president refuses to come to his senses, it may take us until we have a Republican president in 2017 to make things right. Freedom is worth the fight; we must start now.
It has become fashionable in Washington to argue that Obamacare cannot be reversed. That is nonsense. It’s a fight worth waging, and a fight which can be won.
Republican Bobby Jindal is Governor of Louisiana and Honorary Chairman of America Next, a conservative policy group that focuses on winning the war of ideas. This piece originally appeared at the Washington Examiner.