Agenda for the Ages

As the GOP takes control of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he wants to set the stage for public acceptance of a Republican president in 2016. So what is the party's Capitol Hill agenda for achieving that objective?

The new Republican congressional majority is starting out by challenging global warming's validity and picking a fight with Pope Francis. Also high up on the priority list is the launch of an all-out attempt to halt and/or roll back toughening of anti-pollution regulations. These rules would provide extra protection for the most physically vulnerable in our society -- the very young, the elderly, and the infirm.

The Republican Senate's first order of business is to approve authorization of the heavily polluting, economically overhyped Keystone XL oil pipeline. It is a real poke in the eye of those seeking to seriously address the global warming threat. Even though the pipeline stands little chance of getting past a presidential veto, which is the course Barack Obama has said he will take, Republicans are just getting warmed up. They have indicated they will challenge the president's proposed climate change-related carbon reduction initiatives every step of the way.

Influential voices in the Republican Party, mostly from conservative media and think tanks, but including several members of Congress, are denouncing Pope Francis for his support of curbs on global warming, and his backing of normalization with Cuba. Republican congressional leaders have so far shied away from directly taking on the charismatic Pope, but they have not disassociated themselves from their compatriots' criticism of the Holy Father either. Maybe that is because they are contemplating introduction of legislation to impede accommodation with Cuba.

Republican lawmakers have long complained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency engages in overreach in issuing regulations. They maintain that the compliance costs that the tightening of many EPA cleanup regulations impose on business far exceed what is necessary to protect the general public. Ratcheting up protection for specific segments of society with above average vulnerability does not give sufficient "bang for the buck".

Maybe the Republican majority in Congress will modify its agenda as the 2016 election draws closer. In the meantime, it is obstructing progress in coping with what many scientists say in the greatest environmental threat humanity has ever faced. It is sparring with arguably the most popular public figure on the world stage in the person of Pope Francis. It is on course to subordinate the health of society's most vulnerable to the health of corporate balance sheets.

With political astuteness like this, can a vendetta against motherhood and apple pie be far behind?