House GOP to unveil agenda

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans plan to unveil a roughly 20-point agenda Thursday, less than six weeks before midterm congressional elections in which they’re favored to add substantially to their ranks — and possibly cost Democrats control of the chamber.

Party leaders are set to go public with the plan at a hardware and building supply store in Sterling, Va., according to GOP officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. The agenda will focus on jobs, spending, health care, national security and reforming Congress.

Top Republicans plan to brief lawmakers on the blueprint late Wednesday, but key details remain to be worked out, including whether to make any mention of social issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights.

Officials described the agenda as the culmination of an Internet- and social networking-powered project they launched earlier this year to give voters the chance to say what Congress should do. The “America Speaking Out” project collected 160,000 ideas and received 1 million votes and comments on the proposals, according to a report issued Friday by its chairman, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.

The agenda is still being drafted and details were not immediately available, but aides familiar with it said it would echo ideas Republican leaders have already touted, such as scrapping President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and requiring that all legislation be made publicly available before it comes to the House for a vote.

Democrats quickly branded the yet-to-be-finalized agenda a retread of the policies that led to the current economic turmoil.

“It took them more than 20 months to repackage a plan that’s no different from the one that caused the Great Bush Recession,” said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Democrats’ House campaign committee chief.

Divisions remain about important elements of the GOP plan, including whether it should propose a constitutional amendment requiring that the federal budget be balanced each year. Many conservatives and party strategists believe proposing a balanced-budget amendment is crucial to harnessing the widespread public distaste for runaway federal spending, but others worry that it would be impractical or impossible to achieve without raising taxes.

And social conservatives have been pleading with Republican leaders in recent days to include “family values” issues in their agenda. McCarthy’s report listed “Life” as No. 3 — behind only spending and jobs — on a list of 26 categories voters had weighed in on through the “America Speaking Out” project, but aides said abortion and other cultural issues would not be a focus of the agenda because they didn’t rank among the public’s top concerns.

The emergence of a Republican governing plan this close to Election Day recalls the party’s “Contract With America,” unveiled on Sept. 20, 1994, about six weeks before the GOP gained 54 House seats and seized control of the House for the first time in 40 years.