Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Isakson outlines a path forward for the new GOP majority


On Tuesday, Republicans proved they could win in red states, purple states and blue states. Now, they need to prove they can win in Washington, D.C.

After two cycles of swinging and missing at a Senate majority, the GOP finally connected this time around and controls Congress for the first time in eight years. What now?

“I think we have to do what we indicted the Democrats for not doing over the course of the election,” said Georgia’s soon-to-be senior senator, Johnny Isakson. That means passing bills and sending them to President Barack Obama. “You can’t make (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid the issue and continue to have gridlock in the Senate."

Which bills? Isakson, speaking to me by phone about 12 hours after Republican David Perdue won Georgia’s other Senate seat, offered his personal opinions rather than a big GOP strategy.

“The first thing I’d send the president is the Keystone (XL) Pipeline,” Isakson said, referring to the long-delayed project to bring Canadian crude to the U.S.

The next thing he mentioned may come as a surprise. Last year, Reid invoked the “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster for many presidential appointments. Rather than expand it, as some have speculated a GOP majority might do, Isakson said he favors reversing it: “I think the 60-vote threshold makes sense.”

Time for transitioning to power is short. Isakson rattled off five major issues with deadlines on or before May 31: the debt ceiling, the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients, the budget, appropriations bills, and the highway trust fund for transportation infrastructure.

These, Isakson said, are “five things the Democrats have looked the other way on” for years under Obama. Add a reform for corporate taxes that have been driving companies overseas through “inversions” and other maneuvers, and there are plenty of opportunities for the GOP to make progress.

What about Obamacare? While a symbolic House vote to repeal the law may have been cathartic for conservatives in 2011, sending Obama a repeal bill, just to watch him veto it, would only aid the inevitable Democratic narrative that Republicans aren’t serious about governing.

Better, Isakson said, to focus on “certain parts of it that are ripe for reform and change immediately, the medical device tax being one. Bailing out insurance companies for any losses they might incur is another,” as is the employer mandate.

“We do it in selected, targeted things that would pass the House and the Senate, probably with Republican and Democratic votes,” he said. “That would be my guess.”

And this: “You can’t eat an elephant with one bite … and that is an elephant of a law that needs to be surgically dealt with.”

If, as is rumored, Obama tries to use an executive order to enact amnesty for illegal immigrants, Isakson said Republicans should use the power of the purse to de-fund such efforts until the next election comes.

“If (Obama) thought there was a big tidal wave” on Tuesday, Isakson said, “if he starts something like that, the tidal wave will continue.”

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.