WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than a decade since I first arrived in the United States Senate, the chamber has become unrecognizable.
What had traditionally been a forum for thoughtful debate of principled ideas has gradually devolved into a venue for carefully orchestrated theater.
Look no further than the Senate’s September agenda: Amid high unemployment and stagnant wages, widespread frustration over the consequences of ObamaCare, and genuine humanitarian and security crises at home and abroad, Senate Democrats decided that their most-urgent order of business following the August work period was a designed-to-fail campaign bill to gut the First Amendment.
Despite all the challenges facing our country, my colleagues in the majority continue to prioritize political stunts and show votes over serious legislating. Indeed, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. has allowed so few amendments that one of his fellow Senate Democrats recently told Politico, “I got more substance on the floor of the House in the minority than I have as a member of the Senate majority.”
By contrast, our colleagues in the House of Representatives have sent over scores and scores of bills on job creation, taxes, health care, immigration, and other issues, only to have Senator Reid declare them dead on arrival. No wonder Congress has a 14 percent approval rating; the American people are frustrated with Washington, and rightly so.
If the Majority Leader and his colleagues were serious about solving the problems at hand, they wouldn’t need to look far for positive, pro-growth ideas to address our nation’s most pressing challenges. They would see that Senate Republicans have joined our House counterparts in offering a bevy of thoughtful proposals.
First and foremost, we have long stressed the need to pass a pro-growth, fiscally responsible budget that actually cuts spending and reforms government. We should leave the next generation more economic opportunity, not more debt. Americans and small businesses across the country budget responsibly every month, and so should their government.
In addition, we have pushed sensible, pro-growth energy policies that enjoy bipartisan support, such as approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline and boosting U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas.
We need energy policies that enhance our energy security, reduce prices, encourage investment, and create jobs here at home.
We also need a regulatory system that fosters economic growth and prosperity, not one that furthers Washington’s overreach.
Republicans believe we must continue aggressive oversight of the Obama administration’s out-of-control regulatory agenda, which is hurting hard-working Americans while empowering federal bureaucrats.
Senate Republicans believe that the president’s health care law was absolutely the wrong way to expand insurance coverage. We think that families and individuals should be free to purchase whatever kind of insurance they prefer, without having to worry about government meddling.
We believe that future reforms should allow health-care decisions to be made by patients and their doctors, not by Washington. We believe those reforms should make quality health insurance and quality care more accessible for everyone, including people with preexisting conditions.
On tax reform, Republicans believe that our overriding goal should be to lower the rates, broaden the base, and simplify the entire system, in order to help restore America’s global competitiveness.
Republicans also favor ending “too big to fail,” thereby ending the implicit government subsidy currently enjoyed by America’s largest banks. There are a number of ways to achieve that goal, but we all agree that Dodd-Frank did not solve the problem.
Immigration continues to be among the most pressing issues we face, especially given this year’s record surge of Central American minors pouring across our southwest border. Republicans understand that one of Americans’ top priorities is to make sure that our laws are being enforced and our border is secure. We share that priority, and we will keep advocating the necessary reforms, along with others to fix our overall immigration system.
Republicans are proud to be a party of ideas, and we view our intellectual diversity as a sign of strength. Moreover, we are firmly united on the core ideas and principles that define us.
Republicans remain committed to tackling our country’s biggest challenges and promoting greater prosperity for all Americans.
John Cornyn is Texas’ senior senator in the U.S. Senate. He serves on the Finance and Judiciary Committees and is the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.
The above op-ed first appeared on Fox News.