House Republicans came together Thursday on a policy plan that will serve as their political mission statement this fall after receiving a preview of GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s document Thursday and hearing messaging advice from the former House speaker and former Donald Trump adviser.
McCarthy spent more than a year gathering input from members and crafting a legislative agenda he called the “Pledge for America” and modeled it on the GOP’s infamous “American Contract” that helped propel the party to power in 1994.
Now, with the election less than two months away and Republicans just five seats short of a majority in the House, they hope to duplicate their decades-old success by giving candidates a platform to run against their Democratic opponents. leadership plan to govern if they regain the majority.
And with the Democrats’ improved political environment, Roe v. After Wade was overturned, most Republicans have been eager to shift the conversation away from abortion to other issues such as the economy, crime and the border.
“The election has to be a real contrast,” McCarthy said in an interview. “The country is hungry for people to sit down and say, ‘This is what I’m going to do. Tell us what you’re for.'”
McCarthy and his top lieutenants will formally roll out the agenda Friday at a sheet metal plant outside Pittsburgh, a purposely chosen location outside DC. But on Thursday, House Republicans were given a preview of the messaging document on Capitol Hill.
The plan, which is being presented in English and Spanish, is divided into four main sections, although they read more like policy objectives than specific legal prescriptions. One section focuses on the economy and fighting inflation, reducing government spending and making America energy independent; the second is focused on making the nation safer by securing the border and hiring more police to fight crime; the third focuses on empowering parents and adopting Big Tech; and the fourth is focused on holding government accountable and protecting constitutional liberties.
The agenda — as well as McCarthy’s inclusive approach to assembling it — drew widespread praise throughout the conference Thursday, with some lawmakers saying it will push McCarthy for the speaker’s baton.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, head of the House GOP campaign arm. “You have to be for something, not just against it.”
“I’m really excited,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., in a competitive race. “It’s easy to understand, it’s really positive and it really works.”
“People feel good,” said veteran Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the GOP leadership. “It shows the Kevin McCarthy I know: very inclusive.”
“I’m very excited,” added Rep. Kat Cammack, a Florida Republican who is vying to lead the conservative Republican National Review Committee next year. “It is a very thoughtful process. Each member has had an entry. … It’s definitely a win for all of us trying to fight.”
And during the closed-door meeting, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — a key Trump ally who has been critical of McCarthy in the past — praised the document as “fantastic,” according to sources in the room.
Greene was selected to join a group of House Republicans traveling to Pittsburgh — just the latest example of how McCarthy has worked to bring even his staunchest members into the race for the majority and the speakership.
“It brings the conference together,” McCarthy said of his plan. “You know, you’re always going to find somebody (who disagrees), but generally you’ve got the spectrum. And that’s not an easy thing… Everyone has skin in the game when they’re working.”
In addition to being briefed on the “Commitment to America,” members on Thursday also heard from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the architect of the original “Contract with America,” and Kellyanne Conway, a GOP pollster and former Trump adviser.
Conway told lawmakers in the room that he believes promoting their policy platform on the campaign trail will make the difference between picking up a few seats or dozens of seats.
He also told Republicans that the top issues this fall will be safety, affordability, fairness and education, and dismissed “the single-digit lead that Democrats have on January 6, or climate, or abortion, in some counties.”
Conway has encouraged GOP members to be specific when talking about the issues, and advised Republicans, when asked about abortion, to turn the tables on Democrats and ask what restrictions they support.
“I encouraged them to end their sanctions, not just border security, inflation, crime, the economy, say Putin and Biden,” Conway told reporters after the meeting.
Gingrich – who predicted that the Republicans will regain the majority by acquiring 15 to 70 seats – praised the document as much more “complex” and “sophisticated” than the one he compiled in 1994.
However, McCarthy’s policy plan is clear on specific proposals and is akin to a policy wish list, which was largely by design: getting into specific details can be much more difficult and divisive.
For example, on the issue of abortion, the agenda vows that Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.”
Rep. Scott Perry, head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, called it a “good start” and said most of the conference is behind him, but acknowledged they will have to “put a little more meat on the bones.”
In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chose not to disclose a formal agenda, which could open Republicans to attack.
In fact, Democrats are already aware of the GOP’s policy plans in the House, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office accidentally taking screenshots of the agenda posted online Wednesday and blasting it as the “extreme MAGA agenda.”
McCarthy acknowledged the potential pitfalls of setting out their desired agenda ahead of the midterms, but said there are far more rewards in providing the public with a platform.
“There’s always a risk, but you’re not going to be successful,” McCarthy said. “I think the country will reward someone who’s willing to take a risk and say, ‘These are our ideas, and this is what we’re going to do.'”