Republican leader Kevin McCarthy heads to Pennsylvania on Friday to directly confront President Joe Biden and the party in power, revealing a midterm election agenda with sweeping Trump-esque promises, despite the House GOP’s sometimes spotty track record on the field. of supplying and governing in Congress.
McCarthy, who is poised to grab the speaker’s gavel if Republicans gain control of the House in the fall, hopes to repeat the strategy former Speaker Newt Gingrich used to get voters excited and take control of the House. sweeping in a landslide in 1994.
The House GOP’s “Commitment to America” gives a nod to that earlier era but updates it for Trump, with economic, border security and social policies to revive the former president’s deep well of supporters in often-forgotten regions like this rusty landscape outside of Pittsburgh.
“We have a plan for a new direction for America,” McCarthy told The Associated Press.
On Friday, the House Republican leader will stand alongside other lawmakers to roll out the GOP agenda and offer a portrait of party unity despite the uneasy coalition forming the House minority — and the Republican Party itself. The GOP has shifted from its focus on small government, low taxes and individual liberties to a more populist, nationalist and sometimes far-right party, essentially still led by Donald Trump, which remains popular despite the deepening of the state and federal investigation against him.
Powered by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” voters, Republicans need to pick up just a few seats to regain control of the closely divided House and replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Still, McCarthy’s ability to lead the House is far from guaranteed.
As Republicans and Trump have passed tax cuts into law, the GOP’s last major campaign promise, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, came crashing down. A long line of Republican speakers, including Gingrich, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, have been removed from office or opted for early retirement, often precipitated by party strife.
“House Republicans are really good at driving people out of town,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, or CPAC.
McCarthy, first elected in 2006, is one of the remaining political survivors of those Republican battles in the House, and he is a new-style leader who has shown more ability to communicate than legislate.
A key architect of the Republican “tea party” takeover in 2010, the California Republican personally recruited the newcomers to Congress — many who had never served in public office and are long gone. An early supporter of Trump, McCarthy has remained close to the former president, relying on his high-profile approvals to propel GOP candidates for Congress. He abandoned a previous bid to become a speaker when support from his colleagues strayed.
The “Commitment to America” reflects the strengths of McCarthy’s abilities, as well as his weaknesses. He spent more than a year bringing together the often warring factions of the House GOP — from the far-right MAGA to what’s left of the more centrist ranks — to produce a largely agreed-upon agenda.
But the one-page “commitment” preamble is succinct, essentially a pocket card, though it’s expected to be filled in with the kind of detail needed to legislate.
“They talk about a lot of issues,” says House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “They don’t have many solutions.”
On his journey to the Pennsylvania battlefield, a state where Biden has had emotional ties from early childhood, McCarthy plans to counter the president’s fiery Labor Day weekend speech, in which he warned of rising GOP extremism after the 6th attack. January 2021 at the Capitol, with a happier message.
The event is being billed as more of a conversation with the GOP leader and lawmakers rather than a rousing speech in a uniquely contentious state.
Along with a whopping five House seats that Republicans believe can get into Pennsylvania in November, the state has one of the most watched Senate races, between Democrat John Fetterman and Trump-backed Mehmet Oz, which will help take control of Congress. to decide. At the top of the ticket is the seismic governor’s matchup between the GOP’s Doug Mastriano, who was seen outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, and Democrat Josh Shapiro.
“If you’re a hardline populist, and you really want anger, Kevin is a little frustrating because he won’t be angry enough for you,” Gingrich said. “On the other hand, if you want your values implemented and legislated, he is a really good leader and organizer.”
Gingrich worked with McCarthy and his team to shape the style and content of the proposal. The former speaker, who has been asked for an interview by the Jan. 6 committee investigating the Capitol attack, was in Washington on Thursday and accompanied McCarthy when he revealed the plans privately to House Republicans, who were mixed about the approach.
Most of the time, the GOP pocket card hits broad strokes – energy independence, security and an end to liberal social policies, especially in the field of education.
Conservative Republicans privately complain that McCarthy isn’t leaning hard enough on their priorities as he tries to appeal to a larger group of voters and keep the party together.
Many are eager to launch investigations into the Biden administration and the president’s family, and some are calling for impeachment. Legislatively, some House Republicans want to honor the party’s commitment to ban abortion, and support Senator Lindsey Graham’s bill banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
As a sign of the pressure to come for McCarthy, dozens of House GOP lawmakers signed on to Trump-aligned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to avoid many underage sex reassignment procedures, with the Georgian being celebrated for being brave for taking such a tough approach.
She and others were invited to attend Friday’s event as McCarthy seeks their support.
Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, has argued for withholding federal funds to leverage policy priorities, the tactic that has led to previous government shutdowns.
“Go out like, you know, principles about, ‘Well, we’ll secure the border.’ I mean, okay, but what are we going to do about it?” Roy said. “At the end of the day, I want specific useful items that show that we’re going to fight for the American people.”
It is noteworthy that only McCarthy has proposed a plan if Republicans gain control of the Chamber of the House. In the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell has refused to put forward an agenda, preferring to just go against Biden and the Democrats in the midterm elections.
“Kevin has done a very good job of being in a position to become the speaker. And then the question is: what do you do with it? said Schlap. “This helps as a road map.”
__ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.