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GOP Softens Tone on Winning

Republicans Prepare to Lay Out Agenda but Say Talk of Majority Is Premature

Even as House Republicans prepare to unveil their majority-making agenda, GOP Members are worried about appearing overly confident and have been trying to tone down talk that they will win.

“I think it’s all a bit premature,” Minority Leader John Boehner said last week when asked about how he would lead the chamber as Speaker. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in order to earn the majority back, but if we’re able to earn the majority back, we want to do so to renew our efforts for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, D.C.”

The Ohio Republican has been actively campaigning for the Speakership for months: He’s talked publicly about wresting the gavel from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and even set up a political action committee to raise money off the prospect. But in recent days, the Minority Leader has softened his rhetoric, and his rank-and-file colleagues appear to be following his lead.

Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said: “All of our internal discussions have been, you know, you need to hit through the ball, you need to continue to work through Nov. 2 and anybody who is measuring the drapes is an idiot.”

While far from assured, a House GOP takeover is a real possibility. Republicans would need to pick up 39 seats to retake control.

Rep. Peter King said Republicans are not plotting a transition to power and have had only informal discussions.

“I don’t want to jinx it,” the New York Republican said last week. “It’s 48 days until the election. That is a long time.”

That’s the message espoused by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been cautioning Members against appearing cocky about their prospects. The Senate is less likely to flip this year, but it is possible Republicans could win the 10 seats they need to win control. The Kentucky Republican has said the GOP will do well, but he has refused to make any predictions about how many seats the party will win.

Boehner now appears to be doing the same. One House Republican said Boehner has been adamant that Members not discuss “measuring the drapes,” adding that Republicans could transition to power fairly easily given they’ve only been in the minority since 2007.

At the same time, however, the GOP is ready to let the public know how it would govern. Republican leaders are unveiling their long-awaited majority-making agenda Thursday at the Tart Lumber Co. in Sterling, Va. It is expected to be similar to the Republicans’ 1994 “Contract With America,” in which Members outlined the policies that they would implement if they were in charge.

In October of that year, would-be Speaker Newt Gingrich openly talked about his plans for the majority, and the Georgia Republican was flooded with policy proposals from Members and outside groups such as the Heritage Foundation.

Gingrich told Members at last week’s Republican Conference meeting that they needed to focus on closing the money gap with Democrats if they want to be successful on Election Day.

“Any of you who think this is locked don’t get it” was Gingrich’s message, several GOP sources inside the room said afterward. “You have a machine on the other side … trying to take out one candidate at a time.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking member of the Budget Committee who would become chairman if the GOP took the majority, said he wasn’t starting to “measure the drapes” and hadn’t started putting together a plan for next year.

Still, the Wisconsin Republican acknowledged that any budget he would try to pass would have to be bipartisan.

Rep. John Mica, would-be chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said GOP leadership has not told him to begin preparing for the gavel.

“Nope, no drape measuring,” the Floridian said.

Mica said his panel would have to pass several bills no matter who is in control.

“The first thing you do is you sit down with everybody to judge where we are, what needs to be done for the country,” he said. “In our committee, we have quite a bit of backlog. We’ll see if we can get anything out between now and the election, but no matter who’s in charge, we’ve got to have a transportation authorization bill, we have [a Federal Aviation Administration bill] still pending, hopefully we get the Coast Guard bill out.”

“But I haven’t talked to anybody or done anything,” he added. “We’ll just roll up our sleeves and work with whatever numbers we get.”

Yet not every Member is waiting for Nov. 3. Rep. Spencer Bachus, ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, said his panel has been “prepared to lead” since the start of the 111th Congress.

“We have our legislative proposal for two years,” the Alabama Republican said. “Our values, our approach is not going to change.”
“We are prepared to lead right now if given that option,” he added.

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