As the debate opens on the Continuing Resolution ("CR") which Congress must pass to keep the government running, and as the Beltway GOP (well, most of it) wakes up to implications of the example of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., fighting with argument and reason, two political fronts are open to Hill Republicans. They should fight hard on both of them.
First, the GOP must target and win something in the CR battle, and the best candidate is the repeal of the destructive, almost suicidal tax on medical devices. This 2.3 percent tax, a provision of Obamacare, adds to the price of almost every medical device, from bedpans to replacement joints. Although it is expected to raise $30 billion in receipts over a decade, it is already ravaging an industry in which the U.S. is and should remain a leader. There is bipartisan support to repeal this foolish tax, and the GOP ought to be using it as an illustration of how taxes kill jobs even as it moves its repeal through the CR.
At the same time as they ramp up the effort to repeal this tax, the members of the Senate GOP caucus have got to prepare to make the confirmation hearings, committee vote and -- if the nomination survives -- the floor fight over the nominee to be the new EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, a major issue.
McCarthy was part of President Obama's original EPA team. She earned her proposed promotion by being the moving force behind the agency's most destructive, job-killing rules. She is by all accounts smart, funny and hard-working, but she clearly does not believe that the laws governing the EPA limit the authority of the agency to press ahead on the many regulatory fronts on which she has been a commander. The agency's record in court, where it has been rebuked again and again, should be a focus of the upcoming hearings, and the nominee's commitment to the rule of law as opposed to the policy preferences of her boss should be the key issue of the process.
Congress refused the president's demands for global warming regulatory authority when he held his congressional supermajority. Voters proceeded to take away Obama's House majority, and still the agency pressed on with its extra-legal assertions of authority. This is fundamentally lawless behavior, deeply troubling to anyone committed to the idea of a limited government of enumerated powers.
"[T]his is not just about the nominee," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told me on air last week. "This is about the agency, and about the direction the agency has gone, about the decisions the agency has made over the last four years and two months that have really hurt not just the energy sector, but the American economy; about the companies that are looking to leave the United States; about the jobs that are being created in other countries because we have an unelected bureaucracy that's making America an unfriendly place to do business.
"So I anticipate this will be a big issue," Rubio added. "It had better be a big issue. If it isn't, then you know the conservative movement is not doing its job."
A re-energized conservative movement saw what could be accomplished last week when Rand Paul took to the floor to make serious, detailed arguments. Now the public generally and the conservative base specifically are demanding more, not less, of just that sort of action.
Filibusters cannot happen every day, or even every week. But the repeal of a job-killing tax, and the blocking even of the nicest, smartest but essentially indifferent-to-the-law nominee are two legislative hills worth fighting for. Even if it takes all night.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.