House Republicans will soon gather for their retreat. Though there will of course be a great deal of attention paid to the assault on one of their colleagues and on the murder and wounding of the other victims, they will also have to do the work of the gathering as it was intended and roll out the plan for the year ahead.
The difficulty for any party at any time is to keep the focus on the legislative agenda and to maintain rapid movement forward toward the key goals. The need for speed and discipline is always overlooked as the Congress lumbers along according to old rules laid out in a different era. Enormous events occur and the focus is lost, but the underlying issues that drove the huge change in D.C. stay the same. The Speaker and the entire leadership must use the weekend to bring the caucus back to that agenda and inform the media how the agenda will be advanced.
In the aftermath of the Tucson killings, Congressman Peter King wants to put gun control on the agenda. Speaker Boehner doesn’t want to do that, and the Speaker can rightly point to the fact that the election just decided was a giant demand on Congress to focus on the perilous fiscal condition of the country and the metastasizing federal government. The vast majority of Americans share the outrage and the grief over the assault, but there is no serious argument that all of the worries about the country’s direction have been replaced or set aside. The biggest problems remain the same as they were when the country voted in November, and they have to be addressed. Now.
The Congress has taken an appropriate pause from its ordinary business to honor the dead as well as their injured colleague, but the Speaker is right to insist that the work demanded by the voters get underway and get done as quickly as possible. The vote to repeal Obamacare, followed by quick work on the budget and the commencement of overdue oversight, especially on the EPA’s grab for power over the economy, has got to begin next week. The national conversation will continue over the Tucson massacre and new subjects will of course arrive —Secretary Gates’ warning yesterday was an ominous example of how quickly the world’s despots could change the headlines at home— but the House of Representatives has a mandate and it has got to deliver the change that America demanded.
It would be a very productive weekend for the GOP if at the end of it there was a roadmap to the next nine months that laid out the calendar the Speaker expects will be kept when it comes to the budget and appropriations bills. There isn’t a lot of time to demonstrate seriousness to the international markets, and the sooner the GOP gets its work product over to the Senate the sooner the real issue will be joined on the future size and shape of the federal government.