Washington (AFP) – US House Republicans on Friday unveiled a sales pitch for governing packed with promises — but light on specifics — on a checklist of hot-button issues from crime to immigration and the economy, as they seek a path back to power in the midterm elections.
With just 45 days to go until the nationwide polls that decide who controls Congress, the “Commitment to America” marks the party’s first attempt to formally shape a concrete policy agenda beyond simply hammering President Joe Biden.
“We’ve spent the last year and a half — all the Republican members in conference — going throughout the country listening — listening to the challenges, fighting what Democrats have been doing,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at an event outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“And we want to roll it out to you, to the entire country, to know exactly what we will do.”
The agenda prioritizes the usual conservative staples of the economy, illegal immigration, the opioid crisis, combating crime and increased fossil fuel production — all identified weaknesses for Biden.
It hits on hot-button issues that have polarized voters, such as transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports, in parts reflecting former president Donald Trump’s right-wing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) agenda.
The Republicans are also focused on Democratic policies in schools, where bitter debates have played out on what many parents see as overzealous mask mandates and on the teaching of racism in America’s history.
Beyond a brief pledge to “protect the lives of unborn children,” however, it notably steers clear of the Republican goal to more tightly regulate abortion, an issue McCarthy didn’t address in his speech.
It also avoids other issues seen by Democrats as electoral catnip, such as protecting democracy in the wake of the 2021 Capitol insurrection and the global climate crisis.
‘Number one killer’
“We’ve watched what’s happened to our border, the millions of people who are just walking across, people on the terrorist watch list,” McCarthy said, leaning into Democrats’ perceived weakness on immigration.
“But now we’re watching it create every community to be a border community. Fentanyl, the number one killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45: The poison starts in China and comes across our border. You realize it’s killing 300 Americans every day?”
McCarthy said the Republicans’ “very first bill” would be to repeal Democratic legislation providing for 87,000 new internal revenue service agents, a move conservatives have characterized as an intrusion into people’s private lives.
The four-part blueprint — focusing on “An economy that’s strong,” “A nation that’s safe,” “A future that’s free” and “A government that’s accountable” — has broad support among Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is not planning to unveil his agenda ahead of election day on November 8, took to Twitter to praise his House counterpart.
“Less inflation. More law and order. Parents’ rights. Border security. American energy,” he said, summarizing what he saw as the highlights.
The roll-out has drawn comparisons with the Republicans’ 1994 “Contract with America,” which ended decades of Democratic dominance in the House, although it is lighter on specifics.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the Republicans’ “whole-hearted commitment” to Trumpism, accusing them of seeking to criminalize women’s health care and threaten democracy.
Biden dismissed the “Commitment to America” as a “thin series of policy goals with little detail” that illustrated the hold of the MAGA movement on Republicans.
The president sought to keep abortion top of the agenda as he vowed to sign nationwide protections into law in the event of big Democratic gains in Congress.
“Americans can choose,” the president told a gathering of the largest US teachers’ union in Washington. Abortion, guns and health care, are all “on the ballot” in November, he said.