Sep 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans' agenda gamble

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, wearing a dark gray suit, white shirt and red-and-white tie, attends a memorial service in the Capitol's statuary hall.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

House Republicans will roll out their four-part midterm agenda Friday with the blessing of a surprising group — Democrats, who see plenty there to campaign against.

Driving the news: After the agenda language was accidentally released ahead of the rollout, Dems seized on the GOP's pledge to "protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers," as well as sections taking aim at Democrats' much-heralded drug pricing law and proposing ballot access restrictions.

The big picture: Still, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who disagreed strategically with Sen. Rick Scott's release of a 12-point GOP plan earlier this year — doesn't have the same worries about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's document, a Senate GOP leadership aide told Axios.

  • Most notably, McCarthy’s “Commitment to America” is an outline of “vague principles,” not specific legislation.
  • It also does not include some of Scott's most controversial planks, such as recommendations to require Congress to re-approve Social Security and Medicare every five years or a call for Americans who don't pay income tax to "have skin in the game."
  • The aide also noted House Republicans can more freely introduce agendas and make "specific promises" because of the Senate's 60-vote threshold: “The House has the ability to pass a bunch of legislation; the Senate doesn’t."

What they're saying: McConnell showed House Republicans some love on Twitter, saying that McCarthy and the caucus "will bring the people’s priorities back into the people’s House" and be a group that "actually fights for American families instead of making their lives harder."

  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chair of the Senate Republican Conference. said of the House plan, "I'm absolutely for it," and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, "I don't have any problem with that."

The other side: "There couldn't be a starker choice this year," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) told Axios, "and Kevin McCarthy's cynical ploy only underscores those differences."

What we're watching: How vague provisions translate into legislation, especially on abortion.

  • Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) noted a "strong majority" of House Republicans are co-sponsoring the Life at Conception Act, telling Axios: "My hope would be that would be our legislative pursuit."
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), one of the most vulnerable House GOP incumbents, said he thinks leadership will put a 15-week ban on the floor, and that "it would pass, most definitely." But, he noted: "You’re not going to get it out of the Senate."
  • Bacon indicated he's not campaigning on abortion: "I’m going to focus on cost of living and energy ... [and] the border."

Between the lines: Other House Republicans prefer to keep abortion plans less defined until after the election.

  • "We still have a ways to go on what the pro-life agenda will look like," said Republican Study Committee Chair Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Bacon does not believe a 15-week abortion ban would pass the Senate.

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