A practical constitutionalist agenda for the Congress would attempt both to strengthen constitutional principles such as federalism and the separation of powers and to habituate legislators to the idea that they have a role to play on these questions. The agenda would also illustrate how these principles would make for better government. Here are a few ideas that conservative congressmen, and presidential candidates, should be considering.
- Medicaid: "As Michael Greve has argued in The Upside-Down Constitution, the Founders envisioned a sharper division between state and federal responsibilities, a division that enabled competition and accountability. The best way to move back in that direction would be for the federal government to cash out most of its spending on Medicaid and give it to the beneficiaries to help them buy insurance in the private market. The federal government should simultaneously make it easier for states to do the same thing with most of their Medicaid spending. And the federal contributions should no longer reward states for higher spending."
- Regulation: "The REINS Act: Many Republicans have, to their credit, advocated legislation requiring a congressional vote before major regulations can take effect, and it was one of the first bills House Republicans passed when they took Congress in 2011. Republicans have mostly described the legislation as a way of safeguarding economic growth and economic liberty, but it too has a constitutional dimension: It is a means of countering the tendency of modern government to vest legislative power in unelected agencies."
- Spending: "Bring agency spending under congressional control: Another step toward reining in agencies would be to make their funding depend on Congress. Congressional power over spending — a powerful protection for self-government that predates the Constitution — has been eroded as government agencies have been given independent funding streams."
- Taxes: "Eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes: Believers in federalism should loathe the state- and local-tax deduction, which in effect transfers resources from taxpayers living in low-tax states to those living in high-tax states and, worse, raises the average state tax rate...Eliminating the deduction would also make voters in states such as New York, New Jersey, and California more tax-sensitive, as they would no longer be shielded from the full impact of their tax bills." And it would drive these states even deeper into the Democratic column.
- Marijuana; "Allow states to go their own way on marijuana: Public opinion on marijuana is changing rapidly."