House Republicans, who manned the "Party of No" during the unsuccessful 2012 elections, are reinventing themselves into to the "Party of Yes" in time for the fall elections, banking that voters will reward them for offering workable policy alternatives to what President Obama wants.
“We plan to answer the question, ‘What are we for?’ instead of just being for repeal and rejection of Obama’s ideas,” said a key House strategist. “We will focus on policy, not attacks and politics.”
History suggests success. In 1994, armed with the Contract with America, and 2010, when Republicans offered an economic-focused Pledge to America, the GOP won control of the House. In 1998 and 2012, when Republicans simply bashed a weakened president, they fell far short of expectations.
“By any measure, we should have picked up lots of seats in 1998 when Clinton was dealing with the Lewinsky scandal,” said the strategist. “And could Obama have been any weaker in 2012? And even Mitt Romney loses? We have to get back to being for' something, not just against the president.”
While the GOP is not planning to draft a new Contract or Pledge, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are working to develop an agenda based on a handful of proposals on issues such as taxes, jobs, energy and health care that will give candidates something to tout in their campaigns.
Gone will be the endless repeal-and-reject votes on issues such as Obamacare, said insiders. Instead, Cantor is bringing together several ideas on issues like health care to develop a single plan for each.
One initial example is a resolution just offered by House Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford of Oklahoma, one of the party's fast rising stars. His idea: Help states enter into health care “compacts” to offer insurance, putting the power in local hands, not Washington. Several states have already adopted the idea, and the Tea Party backs the idea, which would even allow those with Obamacare to keep it.
Offering conservative alternatives to what the Democrats want is “essential” to identifying the party, Lankford told Secrets. “The 2012 campaign really ran on the concept of ‘We’re not them’ and really didn’t help. People need to know who we are. People want to know who they support, not just who they oppose,” he added.
“I really do believe that, on conservative principles, most people in the country will lean toward that. For instance, if I say to someone, ‘Should the country have a balanced budget?’ I have very few people who say, ‘No, we should not balance.’ Now we may disagree on how to get there, but that concept of should we balance, that’s adamantly different than the attitude of Senate Democrats and the president.
“The president will say out loud, and I’ve had this conversation with him, ‘We should not balance the budget.’ Well, it’s not just an alternative, we need to propose how do you get there,” Lankford explained.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.