A GOP Plan for Payback
Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 28, 2022
Where are the solutions?
Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader who sees himself so at the verge of ousting Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has issued his “Commitment to America” agenda for the Republican majority he expects as a knockoff of the 1994 “Contract With America,” that then Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich used as a galvanizing policy rod.
The early read is that McCarthy’s outlined goals are both vague and so watered down to appeal to the factions within his own party that they come across as toothless policy that won’t fix whatever ails us. And yet, Politico is among those reporting that the far-right Freedom Caucus is threatening to block McCarthy’s bid for speaker anyway.
His proposals speak more to past debates over Obamacare and Social Security than they address inflation, global economies, immigration and climate.
And they are heavy on both culture wars and the war on Joe Biden and Democrats, with lots of spin on the need to investigate everything Democrats have done from addressing covid to the border. And as always, throwing shade at Hunter Biden as a stand-in for Biden corruption in everything.
“With genuine unity beyond their grasp, what the House Republicans have come up with is a one-page list of slogans, such as “curb wasteful government spending” and “fight inflation and lower the cost of living,” noted Karen Tumulty, Washington Post columnist. “There are also a few nuggets thrown in — “defend fairness by ensuring that only women can compete in women’s sports” — to rev up the base.”
But is it a plan to govern a divided country facing simultaneous crises over national policy, international wars, a physical world fighting back against its residents and the fate of democracy itself? In a word, no.
Light on Specifics
The indications remain that Republicans are likely to win control, however narrowly, of the House on a combination of anger over high prices at the gas pump and in supermarkets, the historical trend to counter the current administration and the number of retirements from Congress creating more opportunities for change.
Five weeks before the elections, the Senate is much more a toss-up, but with the tiny majority considered likely to remain Democratic. So, no matter what the House agenda, we can look forward only to more policy gridlock in government.
Nevertheless, it’s always worth looking at what the group controlling the agenda is setting up to accomplish.
McCarthy’s plan repeats looser versions of what already have heard from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who says, among other things, that the reason we should have Senate Republicans in charge is to undercut the stability of Social Security and Medicare, among other issues seen as unpopular even for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell may believe those things, but simply doesn’t want to say so out loud.
Their most urgent priority, says McCarthy, is to “repeal 87,000 IRS agents” — a reference to, and false characterization of, the recently passed $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service to boost taxpayer services and enforcement of the tax code. Apparently, Republicans don’t want to do a better job of collecting taxes.
An anti-Abortion was included, but without specifics, exactly the issue that is driving division.
The entire answer to inflated prices seems to come down to pressing for more immediate drilling for gas and oil, as if there are no overwhelming climate issues.
You can read it but replaying a debate on Obamacare and the Biden administration’s legislation to allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate for prescription drug prices seem old, worn fights that have long been settled in voters’ minds. Republicans are replaying covid rules requiring masks in school.
“It’s so short on specifics that everyone in his caucus could sign on, and it brushes aside anything that might hurt a Republican House candidate,” argued E.J. Dionne, another Post columnist.
The Constant Battlefield
By contrast, Dionne and others have argued, Republicans “really do have a commitment — to making Washington a pitiless battlefield.” The Post’s
Eugene Robinson called the agenda “a show of faux-populist anger and resentment” without practical solutions.
Joe Biden is being presented as target for endless investigation. This week, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said it out loud: Republicans will face pressure to impeach President Biden if they take the House majority in the midterms. “I believe there’s a lot of pressure on Republicans to have that vote, to put that legislation forward, and to have that vote,” she said.
The only apparent problem is to pick an issue over which to find Biden corrupt from a menu that includes covid response, Hunter Biden’s business dealings (his taxes already are under federal Justice Department review), the border mess and international policies including Ukraine and Afghanistan. And for a Justice Department and FBI that showed the temerity of searching Donald Trump’s palatial resort home to recover stolen government documents and secrets.
Beyond Republican identification of problems with China, with fentanyl and with immigration, there are no solutions listed.
“If they take the majority, they plan to use their power to harass the Biden administration with one hearing after another. (Rep. Jim) Jordan, R-Ohio, was positively gleeful in describing the long list of subjects the GOP would investigate, urging voters “to make a change in our government so that we can hold those people who’ve been coming after us, hold them accountable like we’re supposed to.”
In short, the Republican commitment is to payback, not to policy.