The November midterm elections saw Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives. In addition to the new majority, this means a new speaker, new committee chairs and new rules. Though control of the federal government is divided, the GOP can still contribute meaningful change.

Here are five suggestions for priorities Republicans should advance in the 118th Congress:

1) Leadership should open up the legislative process.

The House Freedom Caucus correctly stated that leadership from both parties has increasingly ruled with an iron fist. Most legislation is negotiated behind closed doors and brought to the floor under a special rule, which severely limits or prohibits amendments. This leaves rank-and-file members with little opportunity to engage in the political process or to shape legislative outcomes. Giving more members the chance to craft bill content would create better policy and keep members invested in the institution—both of which improve Congress in the short and long term.

2) The House should continue the work of the modernization committee.

Numerous recommendations from the House Select Committee on Modernization have already been made, introduced and enacted, but there are more that would improve how Congress functions that still require action. These improvements intentionally do not benefit one party over the other, but instead improve the institution for the benefit of the citizenry. Increasing efficiency and efficacy improves constituent representation. Whether the Select Committee is kept as is or if modernization eventually falls under the jurisdiction of the House Administration committee, its members have done important, bipartisan work that Republicans should continue to champion.

3) The majority should find a way to stop the abuse of proxy voting. 

Proxy voting was put in place to help Congress continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, but too many members have abused the practice. If it’s not eliminated entirely, leadership should at least limit what circumstances allow for proxy votes and how often they can be cast. This will ensure members actually show up and do the real work of legislating. Being physically present in the chamber allows members to develop relationships between members, collaborate on policy together and react swiftly to changes in the political environment.

4) The party should exercise genuine fiscal conservatism.

This need not mean cutting or opposing spending purely for the sake of doing so. However, there are plenty of inefficiencies in the federal budget that could save taxpayers money. Additionally, there are many areas where the federal government is responsible for providing funding, and adequate resources allocated in set amounts at regular intervals allows for budgeting and planning that can reduce long-term costs and the need for emergency spending. Governing by continuing resolution, which has become an unpleasant norm, can result in more spending, too. Committing to passing a full slate of appropriations bills on time would make for better, more responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

5) Committees should conduct meaningful oversight.

Oversight has long been one of the most important duties of Congress as it provides a check on the executive branch. This is especially important as presidents have increasingly relied on things like executive orders to move policy, and the new Republican majority can do the important work of reigning in the president. Good oversight also ensures that programs are being administered appropriately and funds allocated to those programs are being spent efficiently and effectively. While it may be tempting to engage in politicized oversight meant to score political points, Republicans would be better served by focusing their efforts on checking the worst excesses of the Biden administration.

Conclusion

Taken together, these suggestions would improve trust and satisfaction with Congress, which continue to be at record lows, and ensure that members are focused on serving the American people. Even in a divided government, there is an opportunity for the newly elected majority to do important work that empowers the legislature, results in good policy and ensures the federal government is a good steward of taxpayer money.

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