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RSC Looks to Advance ‘Growth’ Agenda, Mend Fences

A bloc of conservative House Republicans is planning to unveil a jobs agenda to rival a forthcoming proposal by President Barack Obama — attaching “growth” to its trademark Cut, Cap and Balance plan.

But the group, the Republican Study Committee, headed by Rep. Jim Jordan, is treading gingerly on what its proposal will include in the wake of a backlash caused by some of its aggressive moves during negotiations over increasing the debt ceiling.

The Ohio Republican asked the RSC’s 176 members in an Aug. 24 letter to suggest “policies that can best increase economic growth” given that Obama “plans to give his widely anticipated speech in September.”

“The RSC must again, as it was with Cut-Cap-Balance, be the laboratory for ideas and action in promotion of liberty and against liberal excesses,” Jordan wrote. “The debate offers us an opportunity to further develop our Cut, Cap and Balance idea by adding robust growth components, like tax reform and regulatory reform, just to name a few. I would also appreciate your feedback about policies that can best increase economic growth in America.”

Republican insiders say they expect the effort to include a mash-up of tax and regulatory moves that could include an attempt to restrict the federal government’s ability to regulate oil and gas drilling and a long-term repatriation tax holiday, among other elements.

But the group is proceeding cautiously as it tries to protect its image and clarify its purpose.

RSC officials say the agenda depends on the engagement of the group’s members. “We just want to see where Members are and go from there,” a senior RSC aide said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill said the conspicuous attempt by the RSC to solicit policy ideas appeared to be an effort to address concerns that Jordan was too heavy-handed during the debt ceiling fight.

“This looks like their attempt to get [a] ‘buy in’ … due to the blow-back” from the debt ceiling fight, said a House GOP leadership aide.

During the debt ceiling fight, some RSC members became outraged when Jordan — and RSC top aide Paul Teller — sought help from outside groups to help bring them along with the RSC leadership’s position.

Now, in gearing up for the RSC’s latest moves, Jordan is consciously seeking input and highlighting past attempts to gauge the temperature of his group’s members.

“You probably remember that back in April, RSC Budget & Spending Taskforce Chairman Scott Garrett and I began surveying RSC Members in person, at RSC meetings, and via email — to gather your ideas on how best to address the debt ceiling issue,” Jordan’s Aug. 24 letter said.

Conservatives hope a new “growth” agenda can provide a rhetorical boost for Republicans in the midst of a dismal economy.

“That was sort of the missing piece in the messaging,” one Republican lobbyist said.

Lawmakers are likely to focus on what conservatives see as the unholy trinity ­ taxes, regulations and labor. Conservatives are particularly interested in at least two measures that limit agencies’ ability to regulate ­— a proposal that would require Congressional approval of major rules of the executive branch before they may take effect and a proposal by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to impose a moratorium on federal regulations until the unemployment rate hits 7.7 percent.

The ideas could also be floated as options for the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. The 12 lawmakers on the super committee, already advancing on the monumental task before them, will be taking cues from the administration’s plan — which the president is likely to unveil during a Labor Day speech in Detroit. Freshman Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and the committee’s Republican co-chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), will likely be sympathetic to the requests of the conservative wing of the party.

Jordan’s letter also asks for suggestions about how the RSC should handle the upcoming debate over a fiscal 2012 continuing resolution.

“With only 11 legislative days left in FY 2011, I would expect the CR issue to come up soon after we return to Washington. We can keep our momentum going! To help build the case, I would once again appreciate your feedback — this time about the FY2012 CR, with respect to both the CR’s spending levels and policy provisions,” Jordan wrote.

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