Opinion: A Republican agenda for Congress in 2019

Jessica Anderson

This past November, Republicans suffered a disappointing defeat when they lost control of the House of Representatives. Some political pundits chalked the defeat up to the historical trend of the President’s party always losing seats in the midterm elections. Others blame President Trump’s hard line rhetoric. But these explanations tell an incomplete story.

"Republicans can win back the House by uniting the American people and the party around a conservative working class policy agenda."

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016, thanks in part to the state of Michigan, was a wake-up call for the ruling class elites in Washington, D.C. who failed to take serious a populistic-working class, America-first candidate. President Trump has lived up to his pro-working class agenda while many moderate Republicans failed to follow through on issues important to middle-America such as Obamacare repeal and border security.

To a large degree, Republicans lost the House because they failed to fully implement President Trump’s working-class policy agenda that he campaigned and won on in 2016. Voters know this, and many stayed home.

Republicans can win back these voters over the next two years by uniting the party around a policy agenda that uplifts the working class forgotten men and women of America. To that end, here are the policies Republicans must push for during the 116th Congress:

Reject identity politics

As we saw during the Brett Kavanaugh saga, the left threw away the timeless American principle of innocent until proven guilty and unconditionally believed Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations because she is a member of a favored group: women. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, is a member of an unfavored group: white men. So under this logic, his denials were not to be believed because of his group membership.

The left believes in dispensing justice based on which ethnic, religious or gender group one belongs to, rather than merit or the content of their character. As social liberals pull the Democrat party to the extreme, working-class voters are looking for a party that will fight for their cultural values. Republicans must not be afraid to reject identity politics, protect free speech, safeguard religious liberty, and defend the rights of the unborn.

Secure the border

The Democrats are increasingly the party of open borders. If it were up to them, non- U.S. citizens would be able to come to the United States whenever they want with whoever they want.

Next Congress, Republicans need to back the president by blocking legislation that weakens our borders and expand amnesty for illegal immigrants. Republicans must instead push for immigration reform that puts America first. One that secures our borders, enforces existing immigration law, opposes amnesty and asylum expansion, and reforms our legal immigration system into a merit based one.

Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that lowers cost and increases choice

"Obamacare" is imploding. The law’s endless regulations have led to soaring costs for Americans enrolled in the individual and small-group health insurance markets. Republicans must rally behind a replacement plan that lowers costs and improve choices by  returning authority back to the American people. The Health Care Choices proposal would issue block grants that allow states to have control over their own health insurance markets. This proposal reduces the federal government’s role in healthcare and returns it back to the people.

And no, repealing Obamacare won’t eliminate health care for people with pre-existing conditions. This is a tired talking point from the left and Americans shouldn’t fall for it. The Health Care Choices Proposal ensures people with pre-existing conditions and low-income individuals will be covered.

Overhaul workforce development and the education system

The U.S. education system is failing while costs continue to go up. Too much federal involvement has decreased academic performance and created a dysfunctional system where government bureaucrats have more power than states and local leaders. As a result, there is a lack of quality and affordable school and college options for working class families.

To fix this, Republicans should support legislation like the Higher Education Reform and Opportunities Act (HERO) and the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act (MESA). The HERO Act expands post-secondary options for kids from blue collar families such as those in the Detroit area, and puts downward pressure on the rising cost of traditional four year degrees. The Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act gives military families money to pay for the school of their choice as they constantly relocate across the country serving our nation.  

Make the individual tax cuts permanent

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a historic success for the American people. Not only can the average person in Michigan expect to see a $1,000 tax cut in 2018, but economic growth is booming, people have more money in their pockets, and unemployment is at a historic low.

Democrats continue to lament that the tax cuts only benefit the wealthy but this couldn’t be further from the truth -- working class families are saving an average of three-thousand dollars per year.

The individual tax cuts expire in 2025 and Republicans in Congress need to push for legislation, like Tax Reform 2.0, that would make these tax cuts permanent, encourage new business innovation, and expand family savings through Universal Savings Accounts (USAs). Not only do USAs help more Americans pay for family leave, they also offer additional middle class tax cuts and expensing that creates more manufacturing jobs in America.  

Rebuild our nation’s infrastructure the smart way

President Trump resonated with working class Americans when he called out the U.S. government for spending billions of dollars to help foreign countries rebuild their infrastructure while neglecting our own. He even created a plan to help America rebuild our infrastructure--but Congress ignored it.

During the 116th Congress, Republicans should push an infrastructure package that creates jobs and rebuilds our nation, not one that bows down to climate change activists. To do this, they must eliminate federal labor and environmental mandates that increase the cost and length of time it takes to complete projects.

Republicans lost the House because they did not fully embrace President Trump’s working class agenda, an agenda that has had a direct impact on many of the families in Michigan. Although there is no doubt that the next two years of a Democrat-controlled House will be filled with bitter partisan fighting, gridlock, and investigations, Republicans should rise above this and focus on the forgotten men and women of America. To that end, Republicans can win back the House by uniting the American people and the party around a conservative working class policy agenda.

Jessica Anderson is vice president for Heritage Action for America. She previously served as the Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for OMB in the Trump Administration.