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Senate GOP Offers Its Agenda

Senate Republicans today will unveil their legislative blueprint for the 110th Congress, a seven-point agenda laden with traditional GOP initiatives from tax cuts to a stronger national security designed to redefine them as the party of reform.

GOP Senators, in the minority for the first time in practically 12 years, are hoping the agenda will help guide them back into the majority in just two years. Republicans believe that they lost control of the House and Senate in the 2006 elections because they lost sight of the party’s principles and failed to follow through on articulating their vision to the electorate.

Republican leaders will lay out seven “challenges” Congress must address over the next two years, beginning with the war on terror and including fiscal restraint, tax relief, health care, energy security, judicial nominations and immigration reform. Senators do not intend to tick off specific bills they plan to introduce but will discuss their general goals and how to meet them, sources said.

GOP Senators have been working to put together their agenda since early January when they held their first closed-door retreat in the aftermath of losing control of Congress. Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (Ariz.) spent the past two months surveying Senators about priority legislation, hoping to set an outline to guide the party as it seeks to reclaim the gavel in 2008.

“Looking forward, Republicans will once again become the party of big ideas to help solve America’s problems at home and abroad,” Kyl and Conference Vice Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) wrote in a letter to be circulated to their colleagues today. “We will immediately begin to pursue our agenda and will reach out to Democrats in a bipartisan way whenever possible to accomplish them.”

Republican Senators will call for “redoubling our efforts” to maintain a safe homeland and find victory against terrorism. The agenda also calls for restoring smart spending and eliminating wasteful spending, preventing tax increases and continuing tax relief, and expanding health care insurance opportunities and choice. The Republicans also pledge to promote energy security through production, conservation and alternative resources, renew a commitment to fair and timely votes on judicial nominations, and reform the nation’s immigration policies by securing the border and restoring “the rule of law.”

Sources familiar with the platform said all the GOP Senators had a hand in developing it, released both privately and publicly heading into the first weeklong recess of the Congressional session. Republican leaders anticipate Senators will discuss the new agenda with their constituents over the break and think about specific legislation they’d like to incorporate into the overarching document.

Democrats hold a razor thin 51-49 hold on the chamber, a margin that requires bipartisan buy-in on controversial matters.

With that in mind, Kyl and Cornyn give their Conference high marks for holding firm on their priorities so far this Congress, saying: “We have worked cooperatively with majority Democrats while sticking to our principles and ensuring that the legislation that passes the Senate is based on what is best for the American people, not just narrow partisan interests.”

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