Big agendas and bigger issues are being talked about by the new president and the Republican Congress. This is a good thing.
This new government should aim to act boldly and quickly.
For conservatives, there are also smaller but significant issues — points of unfinished business, some dating back as far as President Reagan — that should be completed.
Here are five, all of which are doable.
First, repeal Davis-Bacon. This law, which was enacted in 1931 and purports to ensure that workers on public projects are paid the prevailing local wage, was in fact a pay-off to Big Labor for its support of the Democratic Party. It costs taxpayers dearly.
By inflating labor costs, Davis-Bacon inflates overall construction costs for the federal government. If the Trump administration and Congress are going to do an infrastructure bill to push the economy forward, repealing Davis-Bacon would increase its impact.
Repeal would also make the point that taxpayers should not be footing the bill to pay off special interests such as trade unions. Repeal of Davis-Bacon could be included in a reconciliation bill.
Second, pass medical malpractice tort reform. Just as President Trump and Congress look to replace ObamaCare by delivering better care at a lower cost, fixing the legal system around healthcare should be a no-brainer. This reform can and should move quickly and early.
The Congress could even follow a template set out by the state of California a generation ago. It would mean that doctors and hospitals would not have to constantly order unnecessary tests and procedures just to protect themselves from scurrilous lawyers.
They could actually practice quality medicine instead of defensive medicine. Costs would go down and patients would receive the care they need, not the care dictated by fear of inappropriate lawsuits.
Third, take back Congress’s constitutional responsibility to control the funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and make it answerable to elected government.
The manner in which the CFPB was set up was an obscene relinquishment of Congress’s obligation to govern. The CFPB is the only federal agency which essentially answers to no-one. It is funded totally independently of the Congress and it has no oversight. It is a rogue agency.
The CFPB needs to be reined in before it does real damage. At a minimum, its funding should be subject to review and its leadership answerable to lawmakers. These changes could also be done through reconciliation.
Since the early days of the Reagan presidency, right up to the present, National Public Radio (NPR) has been the voice of the left. It pursues an unending and vicious editorial policy that attacks conservatives and Republicans. It is incomprehensible that dollars raised through taxes from conservative and moderate Americans should be used to subsidize NPR’s extreme liberal agenda.
NPR has the right to say and report whatever it wishes, but it should not have its efforts paid for by American taxpayers. Any funding that goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting should be fenced so it cannot be used to underwrite NPR. This approach should have been taken years ago. It should be structured as a cut in spending and put in reconciliation.
Fifth, reform the civil service so that the large number of people who work for the government and are not doing anything but sitting at desks can be dropped from the taxpayers’ expense account.
Once again, reconciliation could be used — in this instance, to direct a ten percent reduction in the workforces of all federal agencies, with the exception of the Department of Defense.
A system-wide cut in personnel, using attrition and allowing termination for non-performance, is the only way to get real action. The 19th century Pendleton Act was supposed to protect the federal workforce from direct political cronyism. But instead, the culture has become one of liberal-agenda cronyism.
The federal workforce needs a major do-over, but a marginal downsizing of about 10 percent is at least a good place to start. This also can be done in reconciliation.
This Congress has the opportunity to do a great deal. Much of it can and needs to be accomplished by aggressively using reconciliation.
These are Five Easy Pieces, which would allow this new government to help put together the puzzle that will produce a better government.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.