Right On: Republicans’ impressive congressional scorecard

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OPINION — Americans love to hate Congress. Nevertheless, for conservatives, this last Congress deserves grudging respect as the best one since Newt Gingrich’s first two years as speaker of the house in 1995-96.

Progress was made unwinding the damage done during Obama’s eight-year reign. Here’s a rundown of some of Congress’ most important accomplishments.

Judicial confirmations, especially the two Supreme Court justices, are at the top of the list. The Supreme Court has been liberals’ legislature of choice. Eliminating fanciful interpretations of the Constitution was for many the primary reason they voted for Donald Trump.

A liberal columnist asked recently if those confirmations were worth all the drama that came with Trump’s presidency. For this conservative and for many like me, the answer is a resounding yes.

To the Supreme Court, add confirmations of 20 appellate court judges and 55 district court judges. Prospects for interpreting laws as written rather than as liberal judges wish they were written are greatly enhanced for a generation.

Trump nominated them but much credit goes to Sen. Mitch McConnell for guiding them through Senate confirmation.

Tax reform is high on the Republican Congress’ list of accomplishments. Lowering the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate to one that is competitive with most other countries puts our corporations in a better position to compete globally.

The Republican reform’s immediate impact was a flood of cash returned from overseas subsidiaries. Many companies committed to use that cash for new investment in the U.S. and to provide raises and bonuses for employees.

Our economy is growing almost twice as fast as the average of the previous eight years of Obama stagnation. It’s likely to slow in 2019 as the rest of the world slows to a crawl. But tax reform has moved us up to a higher plateau: Even slower growth will start from a higher base.

Deregulation goes hand in hand with tax reform in sparking an economic renaissance.

Using the Congressional Review Act, Republicans rolled back 16 rules promulgated in the waning days of the Obama administration. Many of these were issued without the legally required public comment period. The regulator-in-chief never let legal niceties get in his way when issuing rules with idealistic purposes but with economically deadening effect.

For example, every farmer’s ditch that runs to a local stream that in turn runs to a navigable waterway was dubbed as being under Environmental Protection Agency purview. Online privacy regulations that somehow didn’t apply to liberal darlings Facebook and Google were no better.

Health care reform was a disappointing Republican failure thanks to John McCain’s spite in thwarting a Trump campaign promise. Eliminating the Obamacare mandate was a step in the right direction but not enough.

Republicans had an Obamacare replacement that provided coverage for those with pre-existing conditions along with other popular provisions. Failure to enact it gave Democrats their most potent election issue and may have been enough alone to tip the House in their favor.

Democrats won’t want to lose that advantage and Republicans will never agree to liberal’s single-payer health care pipe dream. Don’t expect any progress in the next two years.

Entitlement reform, one of my hot buttons, was conspicuously ignored by the Republican Congress. Sadly, any reform – either trimming benefits or increasing taxes – will be highly unpopular with voters. Politicians making either proposal are either in very safe seats or can expect to lose the next election.

Immigration reform sadly devolved into hardened, no-compromise positions with Trump on one side and congressional Democrats on the other. Most congressional Republicans are caught in the middle.

Like health care, Democrats see this as a wedge issue. If they don’t allow any progress, they find it easy to place blame on Republicans.

A compromise approach is obvious: Grant a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought here as children – the Dreamers – and provide funding for a wall. Instead we get a partial government shutdown.

Criminal justice reform legislation attracted wide bipartisan support and passed handily. Likewise, Sen. Orrin Hatch’s legislation to establish a human trafficking advisory council was easily enacted.

In a surprising bipartisan move, legislators passed the Congressional Accountability Act that strikes a balance between protecting legislative branch employees from sexual harassment while respecting due process.

Sadly, Republicans kowtowed to special interests by extending federal flood insurance for flood-prone homeowners who knowingly build in harm’s way. Likewise, they bowed to Democrats’ refusal to establish food stamp work requirements for healthy adults without dependents at home.

Other promising legislative initiatives fell victim to a lack of time to address them. For example, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and others complained that a package of bills regarding public lands in Utah wasn’t addressed.

As happens all too often, Republicans didn’t adequately explain to voters the benefits of what they have done. Democrats were able to portray Republicans as a threat to health care and as catering to fat-cat corporate interests. The result: a Democratic House majority.

Conservatives can applaud a more workable 54-seat Senate majority and with it, the prospect of more judges who respect precedent and interpret laws as written. A divided Congress makes any sweeping new programs unlikely, a blessing in its own right.

Standby for frustration starting with this week’s new Congress as both parties begin posturing for 2020. Nonetheless, we’re better off today and will be for years thanks to the last one.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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34 Comments

  • NorthwesternWildcats January 3, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Lost 40 something seats in the midterms , still giving praise to tRump and turtle man even with a government shutdown that HE took responsibility for on live tv. No wonder I skimmed the article. How about some opinions from less biased people ?

  • bikeandfish January 3, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Sorry, but that compromise on immigration isn’t obvious. A full-length border wall is not necessary or a prudent immigration enforcement strategy. That’s not a middle ground compromise. Its an example of how politicians on the right have shifted the overton window to the radical right .

    The tax reform is currently a hot mess. The money that has been repatriated is much less than predicted and with less investment in American jobs and infrastructure than promised. And for months the IRS has been communicating to Americans that many of us are going to owe money because of how poorly the bill was enacted by the current administration. And that doesn’t deal with the fact that most Americans will ultimately pay more in taxes under it than before, once the temporary benefits expire.

    I’ve taken Howard to task for his ideological spin of “entitlements” that isn’t supported by facts. Even Reagan recognized if we just managed SS and Medicare (large portion) properly that it would sustain itself. Lumping it in with other “entitlements” is a fallacious and misleading argument. We can have ideological over the other unfunded social safety net programs.

    And I find it all too convenient that Howard says nothing about our ballooning deficit under an RNC controlled Congress and president.

    • Comment January 3, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      Howard sees what he wants to see and believes what he wants to believe. Facts only play in some of the time. Has it already been a week since I advised Howard to take a yearlong vacation to the Congo. My how time flies.

    • Redbud January 3, 2019 at 9:14 pm

      Bikeandfish, is Trump currently asking for a “full-length” border wall? The full length of the US-Mexican border is about 2,000 miles.

      • bikeandfish January 4, 2019 at 10:44 am

        Trump has never submitted an official plan with any details, that alone should void any demands for monies.

        His campaign rhetoric and up until Jan 2018 included the entire length. So did his executive order. His rhetoric since then is all over the place and as vague as ever depending on his fickle mood.

        Without an explicit plan a “border wall” is a wall the length of the border. Even Fox News, Trump’s go to media outlet still lists the full length in its reporting. And even his Executive Order on the issue states

        “It is the policy of the executive branch to secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.”

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13767

        • Redbud January 4, 2019 at 10:22 pm

          The Department of Homeland Security has stated the $5 billion would cover the costs of a 215 mile system. It would cover replacement of dilapidated, new sections of wall, and secondary wall structures. The majority of the construction would in the Rio Grande area where it is most needed. That is what Trump is asking for right now. He is not currently asking for congress to approve funding for a full-length border wall. $5 billion would not cover a full-length wall, and everyone knows this.

          I also wanted to find out for myself if border walls work, so who could possibly answer that question most effectively? Probably the border agents who actually do the work.

          “The U.S. Border Patrol has been very clear that a border wall is essential to gaining operational control of the Southwest border,” said Benjamin Huffman, the chief of the Border Patrol’s strategic plan and analysis directorate. “The fact is, when it comes to border security, the border walls system works. Suggestions that the Border Patrol believes otherwise are false.”

          I am not stating that walls are the only thing they need. They need technology, personnel, and other resources to do their jobs. But if the wall helps them do their job more effectively, then what’s the problem? I think it’s absolutely despicable that Nancy Pelosi says the wall is immoral. That shows her true colors, and reminds me why I can’t support her. He blatant disregard for our country is truly sickening.

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

            She doesn’t “blatantly disregard our country”, she has a very different political stance. Don’t be absurd and ridiculous in your claims. You aren’t remotely going to convince anyone who values facts of your hyperpartisan conclusions. And I say that as someone who holds no lotalty to her or the DNC (look to my comments about Romney).

            Show me where Trump has officially defined his wall different than his 2017 EO. Do that and we have a different conversation.

            The problem is we already have more than 80% of the border infrastructure in place the agent is calling for but Trump’s rhetoric over the last 3 years is inconsistent with that fact. I think you know this though and are just so bought into your “dear leader” that you refuse to admit his utter hypocrisy and grandstanding. He didn’t campaign on upgrading the current fence. He campaigned on a border wall.

            But his campaign rhetoric was always empty as evidenced by your belief and acceptance now that 200 hundred more miles of fence/structure, about 30% more than already exists, satisfies his original claims. His campaign rhetoric was always designed to rally his base and instill fear about an imaginary invasion that never existed. I mean there is nothing more evident of that then his unhinged belief that it justifies the
            use of emergency powers under national security policy, as stated today. He can move this target as much as he wants under that strategy as its never been about actual policy as much as maintaining a never ending campaign to keep his based riled.

            But a President is expected to define his policy and needs. Defuse moving targets aren’t sound, or conservative policy. And he is accountabile for his original and continued demands for a “border wall” based on racist lies and clear propoganda. That is what the democrats are rightfully fighting against. Its inherently a wedge issue at its very core. Its never been about national security, its about a corruption of federal power. And until he starts dealing in fact and concrete ideas he will meet resistance that is fundamentally patriotic. Our country was founded on a revolutionary idea that citizens aren’t bound to this sort of federal subjugation. We aren’t expected to kowtow to this sort of wanton abuse of power and fear mongering. And our Congress is one of our primary lines of defense against this sort of executive shenanigans.

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 10:52 am

            Trump hasn’t come out with an explicit plan or detailed request for monies, Redbud. What you are doing is an example of cognitive dissonance. You are filling in blanks to justify his stance because that is easier than recognizing his rhetoric is fallacious.

            A President’s budget requests are judged by his words and executive orders, in this case. I have no problem eventually discussing his agencies statements at another time when they actually align with the POTUS’s own statements. But that first requires a cohesive plan from Trump. There isn’t currently one and trying to claim otherwise is an outright lie.

            Your statement about Nancy Pelosi is not fact or “truth”. As with the other thread, you clearly don’t understand the definitions of those words. I’m going to call out your truthiness as lies every single time. And I’m especially going to call out the fascist tendency to try to limit patriotism to the radical actions of Trump. Especially when his actions are based on lies and mistruths.

            I will openly disrespect the president when those conclusions are based on his mendacious public statements. His racist statements are well established public record, especially regarding immigration. I owe no allegiance to a president, especially one disregarding so many liberal ideals that founded this country.

        • Redbud January 5, 2019 at 7:05 am

          There is nothing absurd or ridiculous about my claims, it’s called truth. I don’t have to convince anyone that Pelosi is a nut basket, that’s already a given. You keep going around in circles. We already know that Trump campaigned about the wall, but I am talking about what he is trying to push through right now with the $5 billion. I am going to take the border patrol employees information over your information as far as accuracy is concerned. Also you are completely false. I did not “buy in” to the wall. I bought into what actual border patrol employees are asking for, because they claim the wall is effective. You are not an expert on border security, so none of us will be duped into believing your hogwash. Trump is not racist, so you disrespect the president by saying this, and make yourself look very foolish. That’s ok though because Trump is the president, and he will continue to be the president past 2020! Build that wall!

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 12:00 pm

            See response I misplaced above.

        • Redbud January 5, 2019 at 2:46 pm

          Trump’s stance on the wall makes perfect sense to all Americans because we know that border security is important. There is nothing wrong with the President’s rhetoric, and we the people know that. The person who was spoken lies is Pelosi. She is a liar, and she is going to do whatever she can to destroy our great country. She is pure evil, and one day she will suffer the consequences for her destructive behavior. She won’t even listen to the facts, and calls the facts lies pertaining to the border. Even if it was Trumps fault that the government is shut down, Pelosi is the one inflicting the pain by dragging it on. My statement about Pelosi was truth, therefore you lie. Trump supports our country, he is doing a fantastic job, and he is not a fascist. Again, you have been caught in a lie. You do owe allegiance and respect to President Trump, nothing you say can actually change that. We are all very proud to have Trump doing the right thing for America, the swamp is draining as we speak!

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 3:54 pm

            “Trump’s stance on the wall makes perfect sense to all Americans”

            Opening with that exposes how unmoored from reality you are, Redbud. Best of luck buddy, you’ll need it. Your own statements contradict your own claims.

            Nancy Pelosi is an American. Nancy Pelosi opposes the wall. Therefore, not all Americans believe the wall makes perfect sense. You admit this reality in your own attacks against Pelosi.

            Your own demands that we owe Trump allegiance and respect would be a farscical example of fascism and totalitarianism if they weren’t so historically atrocious and currently resurgent.

            Republicans Beware: these are the citizens your president is riling up to undermine our country’s liberal foundations. They aren’t joking about owing fealty to him or in their godlike worship. What he is aiding and helping evolve in his base is fundamentally dangerous to our democratic republic.

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 4:29 pm

            PS…the “facts” you reference are lies as multiple sources have fact checked. Here is just one of their lies they were caught red handed in trying to sell the American public:

            https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/fact-check-did-u-s-catch-4-000-terrorists-southern-n954796?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_ma&fbclid=IwAR3gmojomS7IgAKDi6YXRbqvy65OS8DTHFv3mtg3oz99H6Cxi2_-KQMYvo0

            Your dear leader is spreading mistruths and propoganda to support his “wall”.

        • Redbud January 5, 2019 at 5:48 pm

          Nancy Pelosi is not an American because she is an enemy of the people, she does nothing to help this country, she does nothing to defend our borders, and she is actually doing harm to our great nation right now. True Americans support the wall, and support Trump. Your conclusions are therefore false, and you attempt to spread more lies, and cover for a woman who wishes to destroy us. Showing respect for the President is not fascism. Again, you attempt to spread more lies. You should be truly ashamed for disrespecting Trump, who works so hard to defend our nation and borders. NBC news = FAKE news, so there is no credibility to your link.

          • Redbud January 5, 2019 at 5:55 pm

            During the White House border-security meeting on Wednesday, Homeland Security Kirsten Nielsen presented a report on current conditions at the southern border. New Speaker of the House told Nielsen, “I reject your facts.” To which Nielsen responded, “These are not my facts. These are the facts.”

            This is proof that Nancy Pelosi is an enemy of the people, and she is not American in any way shape, or form.

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 8:08 pm

            Thanks for the laugh.

          • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 8:24 pm

            The NBC facts are the actual data from the department. Nielsen tried to also spin the real data about terrorists into an issue on the southern border which the data/facts don’t bear out.

            You are a prime example of the type of citizen fascists and authoritarian leaders prey on and require to survive. This is especially true for your obsequious deference to their propoganda. Not to mention your bogus litmus test for Americanism and discounting of political opposition as “enemy of the people”. I mean you are parroting Trump’s empty rhetoric word for word. I mean calling NBC fake news when they use the administration’s own data to fact check them is just to picture perfect a definition of how propoganda works. (I won’t take the time to add more analysis as you failed to even remotely disprove its accurate assessment).

            Your stance deserves complete and utter ridicule. I still wonder if you are a troll but countering your nonsense takes almost no time and your are an ineffective troll if you are one. Either way the caricature you are presenting is plenty of entertainment to justify the time. So once again, thanks for the free laughs.

    • tcrider January 4, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Howweird must be drinking the water out of the golf course ponds again.

    • Redbud January 5, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      We will all have the last laugh at you when Trump is re-elected in 2020. Again you lie, since we all know Trump and Nielsen are both telling the truth, you only want to believe your fake truth from inaccurate sources. We all know who true Americans are, and we are ready to defend our nation and each other when the time comes. Trump has proven time and time again that his leadership is effective, and everyone knew he would be before he even won the election. You are jealous because Trump has accomplished more in one day, then you will your entire life. He is our glorious leader!

      • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 10:31 pm

        Is that a “prediction”?

        If you are going to comment so ridiculously than I’m going to respond with the same level of seriousness.

        So now there is some sort of doomsday threat about protecting “true Americans”? How far are you going to gone this absurd rabbit hole Red?

      • bikeandfish January 5, 2019 at 10:35 pm

        PS…you should probably move onto calling us “criminals” now that Trump has fabricated a new mistruth. I would hate to think you are using outdated insults and accusations.

        • Redbud January 6, 2019 at 2:28 pm

          Trump will be re-elected in 2020, that’s all that needs to be said. It doesn’t require anymore explaining than that, so when you lie down to sleep at night, this should provide you with great comfort knowing that our country will remain on the right path. I am not going to call anyone criminal unless they deserve it, so now you are just rambling on about nothing. Trump is your President, end of story.

          • bikeandfish January 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm

            Your dear leader is the one who directly implied the 48% of Americans who don’t support the wall are criminals. Its not rambling, its an application of his hideous logic.

            “All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly!”

            Its also inherent in your same inflammatory rhetoric about who is an American. I mean if those of us who are against the wall aren’t American than we are here illegally and therefore criminals. Its why your extremist rhetoric about who is American and patriotic is dangerous and radical.

            Your claims have logical consequences.

  • hiker75 January 3, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Yes, a growing deficit to be proud of. I think Thump will declare the US bankrupt to get all debts forgiven as he has frequently done for his businesses.

  • Red2Blue310 January 3, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    $2 trillion added to the deficit in 2 years… That’s an economic renaissance? Just wait when these republican take your pensions to pay for your healthcare. We’ll all be broke before Trump the crook leaves for Russia.

    • Redbud January 4, 2019 at 10:43 pm

      Red2Blue, don’t worry about healthcare at all. The democrats are proposing a “Medicare for All” plan. They don’t know how they’re going to pay for it. It will cost over $32 trillion to cover the first 10 years. One democrat by the name of Cynthia Nixon has suggested “Pass it and then figure out how to fund it.” Brilliant huh? Thank goodness this won’t ever actually be a real life scenario. Trump 2020!

  • commonsense January 4, 2019 at 7:20 am

    Let us remember that Obama doubled the deficit in eight short years and the only solution for reducing the deficit is more GDP bringing in more tax revenue. Trump has bolstered production so that looks good. I’ve never heard liberals talk about the deficit until today. Will the House under Dem control dare to address spending? And will they fix the mess called Obamacare that they created? The last two years are a start but Dems have proven they can tangle thing rapidly.

  • vickbill January 4, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    And the Democrats just passed a 21 billion dollar bill for additional entitlements but they couldn’t find 5 billion for the wall. That’s really going to help the deficits. It’s sad to see no moderate democrats anymore. The party runs from socialist to communist now and three that want Sharia law.

    • bikeandfish January 4, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Please show me where any of the three have stated they want Sharia Law.

    • bikeandfish January 4, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      The democratic caucas has a few democratic socialist but by no means is it close to a majority. I’m not aware of a single one that is a communist but I’m willing to to be shown evidence that someone is. Democrats in this country are largely moderates and centrists who lean right on many issues. Just look to how quickly they accepted “pay-go” to the consternation of its members pushing the “Green New Deal”. Pelosi is a classic democrat which is why she is seeing challenges from the progressive representatives further to the left.

  • OpinionSteve January 4, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Are you kidding me? Sky rocketing deficit; real tax cuts to the top tier (while the average working man/woman gets enough to buy Pizza one night out); no real immigration reform; insistence on a boondoggle border wall; partial shut down of government; no backbone to stand up to a petulant child like President whose tweets and actions lead one to question his mental stability; all these and much, much more tell me that the Republican Party has nothing to be proud of during the past two years. I say this as one who voted Republican for many, many years. Where are the Republican Representatives and Senators with real integrity, that put country before party? Where are the independent thinkers with a spine who will stand up against the pressures of the party and the President and do the right thing? I think the midterm elections should serve as a wake up call and inform our elected representatives that the majority of Americans are tired of Trump and the Republican Party governance.

  • tazzman January 4, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Howard, I agree with you that subsidizing builders and homeowners who build in floodplains is a bad idea. Let those people and developers bear the brunt of the cost for insurance in those areas if they want. Those homes and developments fragment wildlife habitat and alter floodplains to the point they can exacerbate floods and all while being subsidized when floods occur.

    But, the rest of these points are a mess.

    The GOP is so wedded to supply side economics of deep tax cuts while refusing to address spending that our deficits are always blowouts. The GOP refuses to address sensible defense spending as well. We now spend more on defense than the top 10 other nations combined. And Trump wanted one additional aircraft carrier for the USN. Well, guess what? We are now going to get TWO Ford-class carriers thanks to the current defense spending. And the F-35 air superiority fighter is a massive expensive jet the USAF was dubious about its necessity.

    As for taxes, the current GOP obsession with growth at all costs leads to massive debt, degradation of precious wildlife habitat, and gives incentives to growth that impoverishes people’s quality of life. If they were serious, the GOP wouldn’t tax wages for all but those at the top income levels and the tax the rest on consumption(with exemptions for food and housing up to a certain level).

    And you mention entitlement reform and welfare. Well what about corporate welfare? Energy companies are high subsidized. We open up public lands to them cheaply. The public lands belong to all the people and the government should start charging those energy companies a fair level that addresses the underlying profits they stand to glean from those lands.
    Until the GOP disengages from this tax cuts with growth at all costs agenda, they will continue to blow up deficits, add to our debt, and lead us on an unsustainable path.
    Tax incomes only at the highest levels, tax sales/consumption, and even tax land.

    • Comment January 4, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      Howard doesn’t care about any of that stuff. Howard knows everything is the fault of liberals and treehuggers. And golf: I believe Howard knows quite a lot about golf. Golf is life.

      LOL 😉

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