What are GOP leaders thinking?

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

As rank-and-file Republicans, we have a tendency to tear down the people we’ve long known and trusted about five minutes after they are elevated into “leadership.” It’s easy to forget that the “burden of leadership,” truly is a burden. Most notably, it’s burdened by the reality of the way things are, as opposed to the idealism of the way we wish them to be.

So, as a conservative who once carried that burden in a relatively minor way and who for the last decade has been quite content to rejoin the grassroots, I encourage my fellow Republicans to take time to consider why our party’s elected leaders sometimes make decisions that run counter to our first instincts.

After all, these are conscientious people who earned the trust of their constituents and their fellow lawmakers. They don’t grow horns the moment they are elected to leadership.

At the State Capitol, Senate President Kevin Grantham and Transportation Committee chair Sen. Randy Baumgardner recently signed onto a bipartisan proposal to increase funding for the state highways budget by asking voters for a 0.6-cent sales tax increase.

During my two terms in the Colorado Senate, I never voted to put a tax-rate increase on the ballot, but many years ago, I conceded that, if I were ever to consider doing so, it would be for transportation. That’s because the revenue generated by our state’s 22-cent gas tax (set in 1993) is relatively flat.

The gas tax is a per-gallon tax – not a percent tax, like sales tax. That means that factors like improved mileage, increasing use of hybrids, and (at times) high fuel prices reduce gas consumption and thereby reduce gas tax revenue.

In 2000, the state’s transportation budget was $1.4 billion; it didn’t reach that level again until 2015.

Republicans’ job is to keep frivolous tax increases off the ballot, but this proposal is hardly frivolous. It may not be perfect; it may not even be good. But we should give them a chance to explain their rare support of a tax proposal and then decide for ourselves.

(Incidentally, would you rather they propose a tax increase that’s popular or one, like this, that trails by 17 points in initial polls?)

Similarly, Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., are taking fire for their initial proposal to begin to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Republicans cannot ignore the chaos created by ObamaCare – unaffordable insurance premiums and exploding Medicaid entitlements. Those realities won’t be immediately reversed just because the law changes. The marketplace will take time to respond.

Significantly, however, the proposed bill caps Medicaid entitlement growth, returns authority back to the states, and repeals the individual mandate to buy insurance.

Repealing ObamaCare without simultaneously creating a framework for replacement with a market-based system is a recipe for disaster. Republicans have had six years to develop a replacement plan and will be responsible for the results. They must sort out their differences in the “sausage-making” process and get this right.

Republicans leaders should allow the legislative process to work without arbitrary constraints. GOP objectors should stop holding press conferences to point fingers at each other.

Casting symbolic votes is easy when you know your bills won’t become law; that’s when the details are less important than the message. Republican lawmakers at last have a chance to prove that they really do have “a better way” with ideas that work! If they fail, the blame will go to Republicans across the board, and the backlash will quickly reverse the gains of recent elections. Worse still, Democrats will move us toward a single-payer government-controlled system at their first opportunity.

Paul Ryan didn’t want to be Speaker of the House, but when no one else would shoulder the responsibility, he reluctantly agreed to do so. The plan he has introduced needs some work, but it’s a significant move in the right direction.

The time for showboating is over. Now, it’s time to get the job done for the good of the country.