In 2017, the Republican majorities heard the results of 2016 election loud and clear: Voters expect us to stand up to Washington’s business as usual and fulfill the promises that brought them to pull the lever for a unified Republican government.
The good news is that many of our promises were fulfilled in the first year. Republicans joined President Trump in completing the most significant tax cut and tax reform legislation in more than three decades, while also freeing up the healthcare marketplace for everyone with the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate.
The united Republican government also rolled back a significant part of the burdensome and costly Obama regulatory regime. Working Americans and businesses are already taking notice as our economy is unleashed, once again yielding economic fruit. Unemployment is at its lowest level since December 2000, at 4.1 percent. The economy is growing faster and more consistently under Republican government.
With such momentous legislative victories being signed, sealed and delivered only one year into our unified Republican government, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Congress still has unfinished business to keep our promises, and needs to refocus our efforts on carrying this momentum into 2018.
First and foremost, we must do no harm to the economic conditions that are enabling the growth of the economy. We cannot blunt the economic progress delivered over the past year by increasing federal spending and adding to our $20 trillion in debt.
Harmful Washington-swamp agreements, which always result in increased spending, do little to strengthen the middle class. They do not increase productivity for businesses, increase wages for workers, or create new investment leading to job growth.
We need to stick to the winning formula of rolling back big government and the administrative state. In 2018, Republicans need to continue to reorganize the way government works. A limited, constitutionally based government that empowers economic opportunity, upward mobility, innovation, and a new generation of entrepreneurs is a recipe for increased prosperity and self-sufficiency.
None of this can be accomplished without the conservative base building the consensus and driving the agenda. Otherwise, the swamp will take over, business-as-usual deals will be completed, and people will be worse off.
We cannot stabilize a broken Obamacare by throwing billions of dollars at health insurers who are reaping huge profits at the taxpayers’ expense. Instead, we should work to find a stronger alternative to what remains of Obamacare by rolling back the regulations that are increasing premiums and causing healthcare providers to drop out of the market.
We should enact Medicaid reforms that incentivize work, allow states to innovate, and prohibit an expansion of Medicaid to states that have responsibly refused such an expansion so far. Doing so will help to prioritize limited federal resources so that Medicaid can meet its primary mission of serving our most vulnerable patient populations.
Where are the other detectable landmines in 2018?
In Washington, there’s much to be decided in the next 100 days. Will Republican leadership use this opportunity to unify Republicans — or will we instead do something that unifies Congressional Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, while dividing the Republican majorities who want a smaller role for the federal government?
Will the Senate Republican leadership force Senate Democrats to take the tough votes and actually block conservative and pro-growth policies in President Trump’s agenda? For all the talk about the filibuster, a 60-vote cloture threshold was never defeated by the Senate Democrats in 2017. For example, House Republicans have already properly addressed the Children’s Health Insurance Program. We are waiting on Senate Democrats and the Senate majority leader to allow this legislation to move forward.
In 2018, “effective conservatism” means fighting for conservative reforms and policies that unify the Republican Party.
A budget cap agreement must prioritize rebuilding our national defense and preserving U.S. national security over unconstitutional government spending that pays homage to powerful liberal policymakers. For too long, congressional Democrats have held the national security of American citizens hostage in exchange for increased spending for taxpayer-funded abortion and job-killing bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency. After eight years of inept foreign policy, we must restore our natural and vital alliances abroad to include Israel and our NATO partners.
At the same time, our policy should be to unequivocally support those seeking political change toward democracy and the rule of law in places such as Iran, Syria, Russia, Venezuela, China, and North Korea. For America to remain a beacon of hope internationally, we must stand up for our principles at home and abroad, to include the protection of religious liberties within our own borders, currently under siege by the political left.
Before an agreement is reached on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, we need to increase border security, improve interior enforcement, end the diversity lottery program, end chain migration, and provide new funding for a physical wall on the southern border.
Soon, the Treasury Department will ask Congress to once again increase the debt limit. We should reject such a request unless there are reforms included that actually bend the debt trajectory back toward fiscal sanity. We need to finally add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and find the political guts to make the entitlement reforms necessary to save Social Security and Medicare for future generations.
We have hope for the next year. We have hope for the future. Hope that strengthens the family unit, not dependence on government. Hope that improves all communities. Hope that Washington can do the right things and deliver results so that today is better than yesterday.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., represents North Carolina's 6th Congressional District. He is chairman of the Republican Study Committee.