by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A practical constitutionalist agenda for the Congress would attempt both to strengthen constitutional principles such as federalism and the separation of powers and to habituate legislators to the idea that they have a role to play on these questions. The agenda would also illustrate how these principles would make for better government. Here are a few ideas that conservative congressmen, and presidential candidates, should be considering.
1) Medicaid reform: Medicaid is usually, and understandably, discussed in terms of the budget and health care. It is the second-largest item in most state budgets, and overall spending on it totaled $449 billion in 2013. Most of the expansion of insurance coverage that has taken place under Obamacare has come in the form of larger Medicaid rolls. The program has repeatedly caused state-budget crises, but for all its cost it does not appear to have done a lot to improve the health of its low-income beneficiaries: Mostly it seems to provide them with financial security and its attendant psychological benefits. …
… 2) The REINS Act: Many Republicans have, to their credit, advocated legislation requiring a congressional vote before major regulations can take effect, and it was one of the first bills House Republicans passed when they took Congress in 2011. Republicans have mostly described the legislation as a way of safeguarding economic growth and economic liberty, but it too has a constitutional dimension: It is a means of countering the tendency of modern government to vest legislative power in unelected agencies.
The rest of the list: Bring agency spending under congressional control, eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, and allow states to go their own way on marijuana.