Republicans in Congress are fired up by the chance to accomplish big things in the early days of the upcoming Trump administration and move away from the crisis budgeting that faces them once again in the lame duck session.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla, who gained notoriety nearly two years ago by posing an intraparty challenge to then-House Speaker John Boehner, says GOP members are itching to get things done.
“I can tell you the enthusiasm and the excitement up here of getting things done is higher than I’ve ever seen,” said Yoho, who is wrapping up his second two-year term. “The optimism is tremendous. Even the members that served under (George W.) Bush said they’ve never seen it like this.”
He says part of the excitement was the promise from Vice President-Elect Mike Pence that lawmakers would be very busy in the early days of the Trump administration.
“He said, ‘I hope you guys are holding on and you’re ready to work because this guy that is going to be president is unlike anybody you’ve ever worked with before. He’s got unlimited energy. We want to roll back the majority, if not all, of the executive orders. We want to repeal and replace Obamacare and we want to adapt the tax reforms that the Republicans have teed up and ready to go,'” said Yoho.
“He said we’re going to do all that in the first 100 days,” said Yoho.
Even thornier issues such as entitlements lie ahead, but Yoho says a united GOP can make progress on those elusive goals as well.
“The biggest thing is having a common vision and goal that you’re trying to accomplish. We’re at a point in this country where in 5-10 years our mandatory spending is going to consume over 80 percent of what we spend as a nation,” said Yoho.
“We’ll be at a situation like Greece, Spain, or Portugal, where the situation dictates what you have to do as far as austerity measures and the reforms you have to make in programs. We have time to be proactive and change that,” said Yoho, who says this GOP Congress will not end up spending more and growing government like it did from 2005-2007, the last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House.
While admitting some tough decisions will have to made on some aspects of entitlement and spending reform, he says some parts of the solution should be easy, starting with mandatory spending that isn’t essential.
“One of the things that’s mandatory spending is $88 million to save the wild horses out West. I’m a veterinarian, worked on horses all my life. I’m very cognizant and want to take care of the horses, but it shouldn’t be mandatory spending,” said Yoho.
He also sees places to trim entitlement spending.
“We’ve got people receiving Social Security benefits that have never paid into it. We’ve got people from other countries getting Social Security Disability Insurance. These things have to be looked at. Then you take the fraud and abuse out of these things. There are billions of dollars that can be saved by doing some very simple things and fixing the low-hanging fruit,” said Yoho.
Even before Trump takes office, Congress must work with President Obama to pass a short-term government funding bill. Current funding runs out Dec. 9. Yoho expects a continuing resolution to pass that would extend government funding until March. The Trump administration would then be in office to negotiate future spending. However, Yoho points out that subsequent spending debate would coincide with a high stakes debate over raising the debt ceiling.
Yoho hopes that a Trump administration will bring an end to omnibus budgeting that often end up with Republicans holding their noses and voting for prominent Obama priorities such as funding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities.
The current lame duck session is already a success for Yoho. Earlier in the week, the House passed his WINGMAN legislation, also known as H.R. 5166. The bill gives Congress access to claims filed by veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs and gives lawmakers and their staffs the ability to explain what else veterans need to fill out or put members in position to pressure the VA for resolution of the claims.