Opinion: Congress can get on Santa's nice list by taking these steps in 2021

Mike Howell

Congress has been on Santa’s naughty list for decades now, but, with a new year comes new opportunities to turn all that around. Fortunately for lawmakers, there are many issues they can tackle to bring the country together and solve some of our most urgent problems.

First and foremost: election integrity. Scholars at The Heritage Foundation have sounded the alarm on this issue for years with our Voter Fraud Database. Simply put, what happened in 2020 can never happen again. Unfortunately, the left has already signaled that they intend to double down on the election-related processes that have record numbers justifiably worried about integrity and legitimacy.

Congress has been on Santa’s Naughty List for decades now, but, with a new year comes new opportunities to turn all that around, Howell writes.

Last Congress the House passed H.R. 1, the deceptively titled “For the People Act.” This bill, which was rejected by the Senate, contained numerous policy items that amounted to essentially a federal takeover of state elections. Expect the left to run this playbook again next Congress. H.R. 1 would keep voter rolls bloated and inaccurate. It would enshrine into law the dubious practices of ballot harvesting, false voter registrations, duplicate voting, and ineligible voting.

Congress should instead focus on restoring trust in our elections. Much of this will fall on the states since they are primarily responsible under our Constitution for administering elections. Congress should get out of the way so that states can require government-issued photo IDs to vote (in person and for absentee), limit absentee ballots only to those with valid reasons not to vote in person, and ban ballot harvesting.

Second, expect immigration policy to be a major animating issue for the 117th Congress very early on. The United States is already seeing a surge of illegal crossings, referred to as the “Biden Effect,” trying to get into the country before the goodies and amnesty are doled out. The Biden team has already promised amnesty for all immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally, both the millions already here, along with whoever else comes in.

Unfortunately for immigrants who come here illegally, such a move requires congressional action for any permanence. Biden, though, has already stated that he will tell the Department of Homeland Security to stand down from deportations while he tries to get Congress to act.

Congress should reject any amnesty measures for immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally. As we have learned time and time again, amnesty only encourages more illegal immigration. The left knows this, and that is why they do it. Congress shouldn’t fall for this “Lucy with the Football” trick again. Congress should commit to polices of strong border security (yes, more border wall), enforcement actions for those illegally within the U.S. and fixing our broken asylum system, which is replete with fraudulent claims by economic migrants claiming legitimate danger.     

Third, Congress needs to get serious about the great power competition with China. The Chinese Communist Party lied to the world about COVID-19 from the start. They tried to hide how contagious the disease was, and denied it could be transmitted by human-to-human contact. One of their officials even threatened to withhold medical supplies and personal protective equipment from the U.S. They are still lying today, which is par for the course for the Chinese Communist Party.

There are several things the U.S. can do with the support of Congress. Congress needs to commit to crafting the military we need in the Indo-Pacific so that we can compete with China’s rising military might. The U.S. needs new, full-fledged strong trade agreements with our partners in Asia. We need to meet the 5G challenge head on so that China and their government-controlled companies don’t gain a significant foothold in the United States fifth-generation wireless networks.

Congress should also should use its oversight powers to keep the American public fully informed of Chinese economic espionage, theft and their detrimental influence in international organizations. Dealing with China is a long term-issue and Congress would serve the American people well if they came together to lay the foundations for a long-term strategy.

Lastly, Congress needs to ensure that COVID relief efforts are targeted, temporary and directed at the health crisis itself as opposed to a blank check for wasteful spending. Lawmakers should be strategic with actions such as ensuring that the federal government is able to purchase and distribute rapid home tests.

Congress should also provide limited liability for workers and businesses that follow CDC guidance, so that business aren’t afraid to reopen because of the threat of frivolous high-dollar litigation. Also, Congress should squarely reject the left’s major policy item: massive bailouts for state and local governments. The left is trying to capitalize on this crisis to drive American taxpayer dollars to bail out failed states and localities. The conditions creating these problems weren’t created by COVID, and using COVID relief to fix them won’t fix them either.

It's possible 2021 could be the year for Congress to finally get off the naughty list and back into the country’s good graces. Here’s hoping they’re up to the challenge.

Mike Howell is a senior advisor for Executive Branch Relations at The Heritage Foundation. He joined The Heritage Foundation in October 2018 from the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the General Counsel. He also served from 2013-2017 as an attorney for both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee.