McCarthy is intently focused on the first few months in session, which he sees as critical for his agenda. He would like to use the lame-duck session to pass a long-term government-funding bill, so Washington can begin focusing on big-picture legislating, instead of just trying to keep government’s doors open. He also is aiming to renew a host of lapsed business-focused tax provisions and renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act — two items with bipartisan support.
“If we are fortunate to have both majorities, take away any cliff you can have hanging out there,” McCarthy said, sitting in his SUV fiddling with an iPhone and Blackberry. “If you have a cliff, it takes attention away. Why put cliffs up that hold us back from doing bigger policy?”
The party’s ability to coalesce around large-scale legislation is certainly in doubt, but McCarthy seems willing to pass small-bore bills on issues ranging from energy to health care to taxes. He sees it as a way to draw constant contrasts with President Barack Obama and to split Democrats. Maybe Obama will sign some bills into law, he says. If he doesn’t, it will set up a clean discussion for the 2016 presidential election.
Energy policy will be a priority, in addition to repealing the medical device tax and the independent payment board for Medicare – bills that Democrats have mostly ignored over the past few years. Highway spending will likely come up, McCarthy said, and it could be funded by new drilling on public lands.
One of his chief goals is to rework the federal bureaucracy. In his travel throughout more than 100 congressional districts, McCarthy says he has sensed a great distrust in the federal government. He says voters are frustrated with Obama’s handling of Ebola, the health care law, the IRS and Secret Service scandals. And that’s why he is setting up a congressional mechanism to whittle away at inefficiencies that plague the government. He likens his plans to the commission that shut down underused military bases. He wonders why many city governments operate online, and the federal government still conducts business on paper.