Hatch and the Conservative Reform Agenda

In a speech Wednesday at the Reagan Ranch in California, Sen. Orrin Hatch places himself in the camp of those Republicans (including Sen. Mike Lee) who think the GOP needs “to develop a positive, reform-minded agenda” that offers a compelling vision to voters.

Reports Yuval Levin at National Review Online:

To lay out what an agenda informed by this understanding might involve, Hatch took up, in general terms, five policy areas: health care, the tax code, regulation, innovation, and economic mobility. These are all crucial pieces of the puzzle, and the frame Hatch gave them makes sense, though all will of course need to be filled in with far more specific details in time.

Hatch has already been an important player in the effort to formulate a Republican replacement for Obamacare. Together with Tom Coburn and Richard Burr, he has been a sponsor of what is so far the most developed and plausible replacement proposal in Congress. He has also put forward a set of modest but serious Medicare reforms that could serve as a prelude to a transformation of the program’s financing system along the lines proposed by Representative Paul Ryan in recent years and endorsed by House and Senate Republicans. We know where he stands on health care, and it’s a good place to stand.

In the other areas, there is room for more detail, which hopefully will come. Hatch’s views on tax reform are especially important, since he is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and may well become the chairman if Republicans take over the Senate. What he said today was very broad and general. Hatch should look to the important work his Utah colleague Mike Lee has been doing on taxes (as he clearly has looked to Lee’s example in framing his case for a conservative reform agenda more generally in this speech), and particularly to the proposal being advanced by Lee and Florida senator Marco Rubio to combine much-needed reforms of the corporate tax code with much-needed relief for parents from the unfair double burden the federal tax and entitlement system now places on them. As Hatch suggests, tax reform needs to meaningfully improve economic growth and meaningfully relieve unfair tax burdens. Lee and Rubio have shown how that can be done.