Many of the GOP’s priorities — which ranged from a parent’s “bill of rights” to hiring 200,000 police officers to overhauling Social Security — are unlikely to ever become law with the President Joe Biden in power for at least two more years. But Republican leaders have also pointed to a goal that would be firmly in their control in a House majority: investigative powers.
McCarthy, Scalise and Rep. Jim Jordan — who is set to take the GOP majority House Judiciary Committee gavel — have pledged more scrutiny of China’s role in the Covid outbreak, the influx of southern border crossings and Covid vaccinations. And this time, they will have a power of subpoena.
“We will give the secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas is a reserved parking spot, he will testify to so much,” Scalise said to cheers from the roughly 150 supporters, referring to the Homeland Security Secretary.
GOP leaders intentionally staged their event hundreds of miles from DC — Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, who represents the district, described it as being away from “Beltway experts.” And at times it felt like a campaign rally, with a Toby Keith soundtrack as local GOP voters swarmed McCarthy, along with incendiary Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for selfies and hugs . One woman even wore a long red, white and blue long dress.
And as they pledge to turn their plan into House bills next year, and not just in the final sprint before the midterms, many of the Republicans’ major issues — strings of procurement in China to hiring the police to transgender student-athletes – have been fought – tested to serve as a unifying national message.
In the GOP leaders’ briefing to members a day earlier, for example, they highlighted crime as a “major issue” for Latino men, and stressed that they wanted to “reduce dependency” on oil from foreign countries “scores well in all areas”. On the China issue, Republican leaders pointed to a poll that showed 23% of independents called it their “number one problem.”
For the most part, the GOP plan does not say specifically which bills they plan to use to advance their goals or what level of priority each would receive. But Republicans argue he offers critical direction as they chart a path back to the majority, both on the campaign trail and in crafting detailed policy to roll out in January.
McCarthy said the first bill to hit the House floor “will repeal 87,000 IRS officers” — a nod to Democrats’ sweeping tax-climate-healthcare bill that bolstered funding for the application of the taxes of the wealthy.
In addition to their glossy, bullet-pointed pamphlets, McCarthy and his leadership team also have a disciplined messaging schedule, where lawmakers are asked to hammer out a single message from their plan each week, culminating on Election Day on Nov. 8.
The plan has received endorsements across the conference and slate, from members of the Freedom Caucus to battleground Republicans like Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (RN.Y.) to McCarthy critic and US Special Forces veteran. army Joe Kent, who is running in Washington State.
Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who expressed his disagreement after his own campaign manager released a GOP platform – praised McCarthy in a tweet, outlining what he saw as the key tenets of the plan: “Less inflation. More law and order. Parental rights. Border security. American energy.
In addition to their Thursday debriefing, Republicans received a lengthy pre-election pep talk from former President Newt Gingrich, whose “Contract for America” inspired the conference plan. Gingrich himself called the GOP’s plan “more sophisticated” than his own 1994 plan, which helped propel this fall’s so-called “Republican Revolution” that ended 40 years of Democratic rule at the lower house.
“Stay focused on engagement. Talk about it again and again and again,” Gingrich later told reporters, outlining his message to GOP lawmakers Thursday morning. “The theory is you talk about it until you can’t take it anymore and on that, voters are starting to know what’s going on.”
Lawmakers also heard from Kellyanne Conway, a former adviser to Donald Trump, who stressed the importance of staying focused on the economy rather than diverting attention to Democratic attack points such as the attack on the Capitol, the Abortion and Climate. Conway said Democrats running on those issues could enjoy some slight bumps, citing a recent poll. But if Republicans are running on the economy, she pointed out they’re winning by “double digits,” according to those in the room.
Both guests recalled that the House GOP could straddle both old-school conservative ideas — like preaching overhauls to Medicare and Social Security — as well as major Trump influences, especially on topics like immigration. The plan gave Republicans a chance to say what they stand for after two years of opposing the Biden administration at almost every turn.
Democrats — who followed the Republican comeback in 1994 with credentials like JNCO jeans and the TLC entertainer — also see plenty of fuel for their own campaign attacks. They mostly focus on the GOP’s vow to “protect the lives of unborn children,” though the House GOP avoided specific references to the legislation, including at Friday’s event where leaders did not detailed abortion policy plans. (This is a key difference from the Senate, where a proposed 15-week nationwide abortion ban led to intra-party splits.)
Democrats have also seized on GOP efforts to overhaul Medicare and Social Security, though details on those plans remain scarce. While Republicans say their goal is to keep programs from reaching bankruptcy, Democrats insist that will require program cuts.
“I don’t think they have a lot of [an] agenda,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who hosted his own event in nearby Pittsburgh where he offered a counter message to McCarthy. “They have a lot of critics, but not a lot of solutions.”
But Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the House GOP campaign leader, dismissed Democratic attacks, particularly on abortion: “This election is about kitchen table issues… These are the issues we need to address and on which we need to stay focused. ”
With less than 50 days to go until the election, many Republicans were eager to present something to their constituents beyond Biden’s scathing criticism.
“That’s why we’ve waited until now — now people are focusing on the election. Now people will listen. I think that’s a good thing,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (RN.C.), who serves as GOP conference secretary. “We’re all on the same songbook.”