The mildly agreeable contrarian

In today’s Opinion Journal, this article discusses what the Republican majority should try to accomplish in Congress between now and November’s election. To show that I can actually agree with something, consider my reactions to the following suggestions:

Military tribunals. In Hamdan, the Supreme Court invited Congress to rewrite the rules for military tribunals for terrorists, and Republicans can help President Bush and the war effort by doing so. Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) is the main obstacle as he courts media flattery by opposing Mr. Bush’s proposed language. His colleagues should make it clear that the language will move with or without him.

Okay, so the agreeing isn’t starting yet. Something should be done about military tribunals, but I suspect the Journal and I are on opposite sides of due process and general Constitutional principles.

Spending restraint. One reason many GOP voters are in a sour mood, and may stay home in November, is the lack of spending discipline. Republicans can lighten that blot on their record by passing reforms that stem the worst abuses–namely, more transparency for special-interest “earmarks,” and a line-item veto to allow a President to delete specific spending pork.

Goal, yes. Method for achieving that goal, not so much. Eliminating earmarks would be nice, but the line-item veto is not in the Constitution. If the President dislikes spending, he’s free to reject the entire spending bill. Might that have a more productive effect, forcing Congress to think proactively about what it should and should not send to the President? The current veto structure, and how President Bush doesn’t use it, illustrates more about the President than Congress, of course.

Health insurance. The latest Census data finds that 46.6 million Americans lack health insurance, with the cost of coverage rising. The House has already passed a popular bill to let small businesses and associations offer lower-cost insurance the way that Fortune 500 companies can. Liberals in the Senate are blocking it precisely because it might reduce the ranks of the uninsured and thus reduce the demand for government health care. Why not force Democrats to vote up or down?

This is not really the problem with healthcare and insurance; this bill seems destined to institutionalize the problem further, if that’s possible. Pass it if it’s all they can do, but understand that fixing it later is more likely to end up in single-payer hell with a stupid plan now.

Gas prices. Gasoline prices are falling nationwide, but with oil prices still near $70 a barrel now is the time to open new sources of domestic energy supply. The House and Senate have both passed bills to expand drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, and there’s no reason they can’t be reconciled in conference. The House has also passed faster permitting for new gas refineries, and Senate Democrats should also be forced to kill that if they dare.

This is mere brinksmanship on who cares more about consumers. It’s petty and no real solution.

Property rights and judges. The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision has provoked bipartisan outrage against the taking of private property for private development. But Congress still hasn’t taken the popular opportunity to do something about it. The House long ago passed a measure to block federal dollars from financing local projects invoking eminent domain. But the Senate has sat on its hands, thanks mainly to Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter.

Popular opportunity sounds like a euphemism describing action for the sake of action. No thanks. Federal dollars shouldn’t finance local projects, anyway.

And speaking of Judiciary, whatever happened to pushing more judicial nominees for a floor vote? The White House recently resubmitted five appellate court candidates to the Senate, and they deserve a vote in what could be the last time in this Presidency that Republicans control the legislative calendar.

Whatever. I’m just happy activist didn’t appear here.

Taxes. Democrats who oppose making the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent are arguing for one of the largest tax increases in American history. The average family with children would see its tax payment rise by $2,084 a year. A vote in both houses on making these permanent is good policy and politics. Ditto for another vote on repealing the death tax, to remind voters in red states about where their tax burdens will head if Democrats take control.

I’m not the average family with children, but my taxes are high enough. Lower taxes would be great, but targeted tax cuts aren’t enough. I’d go further than this suggestion. Of course, I’d wake up when I was done dreaming of its passage.