Minority Leader John Boehner told Republicans on Wednesday night that the upcoming release of the GOP agenda will be “a defining moment for us as a team,” according to GOP sources inside the closed-door meeting.
“We’ve been on a long journey,” the Ohio Republican told members, the sources said. “They were writing the obituaries for our party. … We’re on the verge of a big win.”
Two GOP sources said Boehner appeared “misty-eyed” as the preamble of the document was read during a video presentation of the document.
Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was tapped by Boehner to lead the agenda project, received a standing ovation after the video concluded, the sources said.
One Member who attended the meeting described it as one of the most “positive” and “upbeat” conferences “in quite a while.”
House Republican leaders will officially roll out the agenda Thursday at an event in Sterling, Va.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said the pledge would provide a “good glide path for the leadership” to show where Republicans would take the country if they gain the majority in the November midterm elections. But Sessions disputed the notion that Republican candidates would use the document to campaign, saying that was not its purpose.
Several Republicans said they were pleased with the final product, even though it avoided such divisive issues as earmarks and only lightly touched on social issues such as abortion, immigration and marriage.
The lack of bolder policy prescriptions didn’t bother Rep. Paul Ryan. The ranking member of the House Budget Committee has proposed a “road map” that would shrink and remake Social Security and Medicare.
“It’s all good,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We have to recognize that if we get the majority, we will be dealing with a divided government situation. We don’t want to over-promise.”
The document wasn’t designed to be a party platform or a long-term agenda, Ryan and other Republicans said. “These are all things we could do tomorrow,” Ryan said. “It’s designed for the moment we’re in … given who is president.”
A GOP aide said the lack of controversial policy prescriptions was by design; leaders determined at the start that they didn’t want to touch anything that would divide the Conference.
Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), the leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, had nothing but praise.
“This is the work of the American people,” he said. “I think it’s a document that the majority of Americans will say thank you, thank you, thank you for listening.”
Social conservatives said they were satisfied with the items that were included, including a permanent ban on federal funding of abortions.
Rep. Chris Smith, the chairman of the Pro-life Caucus, said the document is a good start. “The biggest threat we face right now is Obama’s effort to force taxpayers to pay for abortions,” the New Jersey Republican said, contending that President Barack Obama’s executive order banning federal funding fails to do so.
“This is an action agenda we need to do right now,” Smith said, adding that it doesn’t preclude other abortion issues, like a parental notification law. “We’ll work on that, without a doubt,” he said.
Asked whether the agenda focused enough on social issues, Rep. Randy Neugebauer said the agenda was meant to be more of a broad overview of how House Republicans want to run the country, so it does not necessarily represent all issues Republicans might take up if they win the majority in November.
“This is a blueprint to let the American people know these are the things we heard them speaking about, so we were listening,” the Texas Republican said.
Reaction outside the Capitol was not as kind.
Red State blogger and CNN pundit Erick Erickson wrote that the agenda was full of “mom tested, kid approved pablum” that doesn’t do anything substantive. “It is dreck,” he wrote.
A GOP aide ripped Erickson in kind. “Erick Erickson gets paid to go on TV and write negative things about Republicans,” the aide said. “The original patriots had a similar fellow — Benedict Arnold.”
Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.