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House Republicans look to counter Biden agenda

Appetite to compromise on legislation with White House appears lacking

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik conducts a news conference with GOP members in the Capitol Visitor Center on Jan. 20.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik conducts a news conference with GOP members in the Capitol Visitor Center on Jan. 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — House Republicans are huddling to craft their overarching legislative agenda should they win the majority in November, but much of their message so far is focused on combating President Joe Biden’s agenda while seeming unenthusiastic about a pledge to compromise on legislation with the White House. 

Regular gasoline prices have been soaring, as has inflation, and Republicans haven’t passed up opportunities to criticize the White House and Democrats on those issues. On Thursday, the House Republican Policy Committee handed out a fact sheet on “out of control inflation” and criticized the Biden administration for canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and stopping new oil and gas leases on federal land. 

GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik said her party would rein in spending and look to improve American energy independence. There are “numerous legislative proposals” led by members “about how we can unleash all of the above energy independence,” the New York Republican said. But absent a change in White House policy, there is scant evidence that those would garner Biden’s signature.

Stefanik also said the conference would seek to “rein in the reckless trillions of dollars of spending. That stops with a Republican majority in Congress.” She criticized the spending levels in the almost $2 trillion American Rescue Plan and said her party would seek to undertake a smoother appropriations process, compared with the delayed one that Democrats recently completed.

“So reining in the spending is going to be really important, making sure that we have a path to balance in our budget and a workable appropriations process, rather than having it written behind closed doors, multitrillion-dollar bills run by the speaker’s office,” Stefanik said.

Notably, House Republicans mostly backed President Donald Trump’s instincts to spend federal funds. Talk of scaling back spending, however, amplified when he lost to Biden.

Stefanik said Republicans will focus on issues important to them and those they represent, like increased prices Americans are paying at the gas pump.

“We’re going to pass legislation out of the House and send as much as we can to President Joe Biden’s desk, and we hope that he will work with us, but the American people understand that this is a result of his failed agenda,” Stefanik said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is poised to become speaker if Republicans take the House, assigned various members to seven task forces working on policy areas important to the conference: jobs and the economy; Big Tech censorship and data; future of American freedoms; energy, climate and conservation; American security; healthy future; and competition with China.

Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, the conference secretary, said these task forces are unique from past GOP plans because rather than involving several members, they involve a wide range of input from members across the conference.

This time, it is a “conferencewide project where every member of our conference is involved and engaged and on a task force,” Hudson said. “Everyone has buy-in, and so it’s going to make for a better project. It’s going to make for a better messaging proposal, but it’s also going to help us govern when we take over.”

As the retreat progresses, the goal is to weave the ideas produced by the task forces and compile a meaningful plan of action, said Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, the conference’s vice chair.

“We’re here this week to pull all that together. We will be formulating a grand plan, so to speak, to roll out to the American people. And we’re all very excited about that,” Johnson said. “We’re going to be ready on day one.”

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