Before former President Donald Trump stepped onstage for his first speech in Washington since leaving the White House, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was at the same venue talking up the prospects of winning an enduring Republican majority in November.
"I believe in this next election, this is a 50-year election. Never before are we going to feel this type of opportunity in a year of redistricting," McCarthy said Tuesday at the Trump-headlined America First Agenda summit. "We can lock in a conservative majority for the decade."
Speaking on a panel with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., McCarthy had been asked about lessons from the GOP takeover of the House in 1994. McCarthy said his conference would start to unveil its agenda on Wednesday in a move reminiscent of the Gingrich-led "Contract with America."
"For the last year and a half, every single one of our members have been part of a task force finding solutions. We've been coming together; we're going to meet tomorrow. We're going to roll part of that out ... our commitment to America," McCarthy said. "We're going to go back in August, talking and listening to our constituents, finalize it and roll it out in September."
Gingrich was full of praise for McCarthy and his effort to put forth a policy agenda ahead of November, while criticizing Republicans who might prefer not to do that and instead rely on high inflation and President Joe Biden's low approval ratings to ensure victory.
"I don't have to be as careful as Kevin. So, look, I think the people who say that are nuts," Gingrich said.
Democrats have seized on policy proposals from Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., attacking the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman's ideas for taxes and entitlement spending, some of which Scott has clarified but not backed away from.
Speaking to the America First Policy Institute gathering in Washington, McCarthy previewed some of the policy areas to be covered, including energy, crime and foreign policy.
"We're going to withhold money [from] any prosecutor that doesn't uphold the law and picks and chooses who they go to prosecute," McCarthy said.
He also pledged to eliminate the practice of proxy voting in the House, which was adopted to limit the size of crowds on the House floor due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump focused on crime, suggesting that Congress should expand the shield from prosecution for law enforcement officers under qualified immunity.
"We have to leave our police alone. Every time they do something, they're afraid they're going to be destroyed, their pension's going to be taken away. They'll be fired. They'll be put in jail," the former president said. "Let them do their job. Give them back the respect that they deserve."
"The new Congress should immediately pass emergency funding to hire and retain tens of thousands of more police officers all across our country to go in the opposite direction," Trump said, criticizing efforts to defund police. He also called for deploying the National Guard onto the streets of major cities like Chicago.
But in his remarks about respecting police, Trump did not mention the police officers injured and killed as a consequence of the mob of Trump supporters that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, or the president's not deploying the National Guard in that instance.
Biden on Tuesday took aim at this theme on Twitter, using a clip from a speech he gave to a police group Monday that included him saying, "You can't be pro-insurrection and pro-cop."
Trump made repeated references to the agenda of the next Republican president, not tipping his hand as to whether he would be running again in 2024, though certainly sounding like a candidate.
While Trump was speaking in Washington, NBC News released an excerpt of an interview with Attorney General Merrick Garland scheduled to air later in the day. Garland was asked about whether the announcement of another Trump presidential campaign would affect the Justice Department's prosecutorial decisions.
"Look, we pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable, that's what we do," Garland said. "We don't pay any attention to other issues with respect to that."
Trump made reference to Jan. 6 on Tuesday, referring to what happened as "disinformation" or "misinformation."
"These are hacks and thugs," Trump said of the members of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. He then spoke of alleged abuse of those facing charges in connection with the attack on the Capitol, noting that some are being held without bail.
"Something's going to have to happen," Trump said. "These people are not going to take it much longer. There's two sets of justice."
"[I]f Donald Trump wants to talk about crime, he should explain why he incited a mob to violently attack police officers defending the Capitol, or why he proposed massive cuts to community policing programs, or why his MAGA Republican allies voted against funding that has bolstered law enforcement," Democratic National Committee senior adviser Cedric Richmond said in a statement in response. "President Biden has delivered where Trump failed — that’s the simple truth."
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol for the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, was at a separate conservative gathering in Washington earlier Tuesday, speaking to an audience of students hosted by the Young America's Foundation.
"I don't know that the president and I differ on issues, but we may differ on focus," Pence said, speaking of Trump. "I truly do believe that elections are about the future."