The people have spoken. On Election Day, they cried out against Washington's reckless spending, stifling regulations, rising taxes, soaring debt and looming takeover of health care. For too long, Washington elites have assumed they knew best - that government was the all-purpose solution to every problem, real or perceived.
But the American people have collective wisdom, expressed forcefully at the ballot box. Repudiating the "change" that denied our character and tradition, they demanded that Congress take a new direction. They called for an American renewal that taps our values.
That message was heard around the world. Friend and foe alike now realize that Americans remain a strong and free people, unbowed by adversity and unwilling to exchange their birthright of liberty for a perpetual stew of bureaucratic rule and government dependency.
Let's be clear. Congress must get to work. Our lawmakers have a choice: Answer the call of renewal or betray the hopes of the American people.
To meet this mandate from the American people, Congress should take five simple actions. These five priorities represent the bare minimum of what is expected. More needs to be done to get our nation back on the right track, but these actions are a good start:
Freeze and cut spending: Congress should immediately freeze discretionary budget authority at 2010 levels and cut at least $170 billion from the federal budget for fiscal 2012. This is only a first step. In the past four years, Congress has approved more spending than even the bureaucrats can handle. Congress must immediately survey the unobligated balances of all appropriations made in the past four years, reclaim those unspent taxpayer funds and use them to reduce the deficit.
Repeal Obamacare: Congress must repeal Obamacare immediately. Until Congress can get the president to sign a law to do so, it must withhold funding, block key provisions and override regulations carrying out Obamacare. Only after this misguided "reform" is rejected can Congress undertake a careful, thoughtful legislative process to make practical adjustments that allow the free market to provide affordable, effective health care insurance choices.
Stop the Obama tax increases: Congress must reject the tax increases that will occur when the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 expire at the end of next month. That means making the cuts permanent, thereby helping the economy grow and creating more jobs.
Protect America: Congress must pass a budget resolution that won't put our troops at risk or leave Americans vulnerable. It can do this by providing for defense an average of $720 billion per year for each of the next five fiscal years, in addition to the funding needed for ongoing contingency operations. Congress must make the defense budget as efficient as possible and reinvest dollars achieved from reforms in the military to offset the cost of modernizing and developing next-generation equipment.
Get control of government: Congress must immediately re-establish legislative accountability by posting complete legislation, ending earmarks, reviewing all unauthorized programs and respecting constitutional limits on government. Congress must check executive branch overreach with aggressive oversight, roll back recent government interventions, stop unnecessary administrative regulations and sunset new ones, restrict bureaucrats' rule-making authority and override executive orders.
By doing these things, Washington can fulfill its electoral mandate and meet its constitutional responsibilities. Our elected representatives can then prove they've truly heard the American people.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Washington Times