Republicans Coordinate on Midterm Policy Plans

House Takes the Lead; Details Still Uncertain

Posted September 13, 2010 at 7:12pm

Senate Republicans are working with the House GOP on the creation of a midterm election agenda for incumbents and challengers to run on in the fall campaign, but are largely deferring to their counterparts on the specifics.

The agenda, due to be unveiled before month’s end, is a project of the House Republicans’ America Speaking Out project, which has solicited suggestions from the public for solutions to the nation’s problems. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined Monday to discuss the agenda his Members and challenger candidates will pitch to voters heading into Election Day, but Senate Republicans are likely to adopt the House GOP document in some form.

“Senate Republicans have remained in touch with their House counterparts throughout the process and are looking forward to seeing the final product,” a senior Republican Senate aide said.

House and Senate Republican leaders have declined to discuss the specifics of what the agenda will contain — “I’m not going to scoop ourselves,” McConnell said Monday. But the document will probably focus on job creation, improving economic growth, reducing government spending and other issues that have polled well with likely midterm election voters.

According to one House Republican leadership aide directly involved in the project, the agenda will not function as a “broad party platform,” but rather consist of a list of solutions narrowly targeted to address what Republicans think are “the top priorities of the American people.” House Republicans said their goal is to avoid a top-down imposition of Washington-based ideas, and instead provide voters with the government they want.

“Throughout this process, we’ve been keeping our friends on the Senate side informed of our progress and the priorities we’re seeing materialize, and we’ll no doubt continue to do so as we finalize the content,” the aide said.

During the August recess, public polls suggested the Republicans were on course to win control of the House and make major gains in the Senate, although flipping the chamber remains an uphill climb for the GOP. Republicans need to win 39 seats to take control of the House, and capture 10 seats to retake the Senate.

Thus far, GOP leaders have only hinted at what a Republican majority agenda would look like. Possible plans include an attempt to repeal the new health care law and replace it with other reforms, an across-the-board extension of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 and set to expire at year’s end, a reduction in government spending, and a general loosening of government regulations that the GOP contends are stifling job creation.

But neither the House nor the Senate GOP Conference has offered anything concrete. In 1994, the last time Republican minorities won control of Congress from Democratic majorities in both chambers, the GOP offered voters the “Contract With America,” and that governing agenda received much of the credit for the party’s landslide victories that year.

Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns, a freshman Republican, indicated that any agenda his party offers the voters for this midterm election would do well to focus on reducing the federal government’s involvement in Americans’ lives generally, putting a crimp in federal spending and lowering the deficit and the national debt. Johanns’ constituents, the Senator said, see it as a problem of “too much of everything.”

“I think what they’re looking for is a more thoughtful, conservative approach to governing. But I think they’re looking for a bipartisan effort to try and fix problems — a more inclusive effort. I think that’s very important,” he said.

While conceding the necessity of producing an election agenda, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said a document is not required to intelligently discuss with voters the problems they face and the solutions they desire.

The Texas Republican said that while he is looking forward to seeing what House Republicans come up with, he thinks the agenda Republicans are offering is relatively set.

“There’s only three issues that people care about, and everything else is in the low single digits,” Cornyn said. “Those issues are jobs, spending and debt. And, I don’t think that it’s any more complicated than that.”