In Washington, Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher is playing “oldies, but goodies” with his latest series of legislative proposals, the greatest hits from the Republican Party over the last 40 years. He’s even added a nostalgic twist to the name, calling it the “drain the swamp” package, in honor of former President Trump.
However, Trump had nothing to do with promoting any of Fulcher’s proposals that he is sponsoring or co-sponsoring. Some of those initiatives, which once were part of the GOP’s heart and soul, go all the way back to the Reagan years.
The congressman isn’t naïve. He knows these old ideas won’t get a hearing with the Democratic majority in the House, let alone a floor vote. But as Fulcher explains, “We have to change the messaging and the narrative here.”
So, he’s turning back the clock. Let’s check it out.
Balanced Budget Amendment. President Reagan talked about it in the 1980s and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was one of the leading proponents during his years in Congress. With the national debt at almost $28 trillion and federal spending showing no signs of slowing down, it’s almost laughable to be talking about a balanced budget amendment. But Fulcher makes a nice pitch: “Each year in Idaho, we are required to balance the budget and act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. It is past due for our federal government to do the same.”
Elimination of the Death Tax (also called “estate” taxes). As Fulcher says, “Rural families should not be punished for their family’s success, and I urge my colleagues in urban settings to take a moment to consider this detrimental impact.” Members of Congress have taken many “moments” over the years to repeal the death tax, and it’s still with us.
Congressional term limits. If enacted, House members would be limited to three terms (six years) and senators would be maxed out after two terms (12 years. It’s a good idea, for sure. The problem is convincing career politicians in Washington to go along with it.
Opposition to the return of earmarks. Democrats are looking to restore earmarks under a different name, called “Community Project Funding.” Fulcher and other Republicans fear that earmarks, under any label, would open the door for more pork spending. Of course, discretionary spending is only a miniscule part of the problem with the national debt. The bigger issue is with so-called “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and Congress has no appetite for curtailing those.
One Subject at a Time Act. Fulcher is in just his third year in office, but he has seen enough of these massive spending bills and his eyes are glazed over from looking at the hundreds (if not thousands) of mind-numbing pages that go with those packages. “On these big bills, there are some good reasons for not supporting them and good reasons to support them,” he said. “If Congress were to take these issues one at a time, it would take longer and be more difficult, but that’s the responsible thing to do.”
Doing as Fulcher describes also would require members, from both parties, to work together, which is not happening. The House allows for proxy voting, which was instituted during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and zoom committee meetings are part of the norm. House members basically can operate from their home districts, if they wish.
“There is very little discussion between the parties, or opportunities for discussion between the parties and that’s by design,” Fulcher says. “It’s hard to build relationships, negotiate or gain trust, and the leadership knows that. Democrats have the narrowest of majorities, yet they are ramming things through – which is a testament to their discipline and ability to control each other.”
Fulcher also isn’t seeing bipartisan breakthroughs from President Biden, who pledged to work with the GOP.
“He’s not working with Republicans on anything,” Fulcher says. “Our Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, hasn’t even met with the president. To my knowledge, the president is not meeting with members of Congress from either party on any kind of a regular basis.”
So don’t expect the president to call Fulcher about his “drain the swamp” proposals. These “oldies” are not all bad ideas, but the records are warped and there are many scratches to go with the sound.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com