GOP Leaders Rally Caucus At Retreat

Posted January 30, 2004 at 6:31pm

As they worked to establish themes for the year at last week’s bicameral Republican retreat in Philadelphia, the House’s top two GOP leaders gave a pair of aggressive speeches designed to rally their Members for the battles to come.

While Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) used a plethora of football analogies to stress the need for unity and cohesiveness within the House Republican Conference, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) focused on the long-term importance of pursuing a bold legislative agenda.

“If 1994 was the year we stopped thinking like a permanent minority,” DeLay said in a luncheon speech Friday, “2004 is the year we start thinking like a permanent majority: unified, aggressive, rightfully confident of victory and guided as our coalition has always been by three principles — security, prosperity and family.”

Recalling that in January 1994, then-President Bill Clinton delivered his State of the Union speech to a Democratic House and Senate, DeLay attempted to lay out “a vision that will make sure we never see a State of the Union like that again in our lifetime.”

DeLay called this “the winter of the Democrats’ discontent” and predicted that the Democratic presidential campaign against President Bush would be the “culmination of every frustration” they have built up in the past 10 years.

Democrats “know this is their last chance. They know the tide of history is moving in our direction,” the Majority Leader said.

Told of DeLay’s pronouncements, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Kori Bernards said, “I wonder if Tom DeLay lives in the same world we do.

“I wonder if he reads the same national polls because on every single issue Americans are concerned about — health care, education, the economy and jobs — they trust Democrats more than Republicans. … I think it’s Republican bluster. People are tired of it.”

With a decade in the majority under their belts, DeLay said House Republicans’ “victory is no longer a revolution. We are no longer temporary upstarts and usurping wannabes.”

In addition to his usual themes of cutting taxes and reducing the size of government, DeLay also emphasized a goal he has been referencing with increasing frequency — doubling the size of the economy within the next 10 or 15 years.

While DeLay spoke of long-term goals, Hastert used his dinner speech Thursday night to emphasize the strategic imperatives for 2004, using football analogies to outline seven keys to success for House Republicans:

• Stick to the game plan by staying within budget parameters.

• Stay on offense.

• Mount a strong defense of GOP policies.

• Avoid “turnovers” by closely adhering to new campaign finance laws.

• Play a strong “air game” by disseminating their message well.

• “Keep it in the locker room” by not publicizing internal squabbling or sending messages to the leadership through the media.

• Remember that a united team is a winning team.

Erin P. Billings contributed to this report.