GOP plots course
WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday began plotting strategy for the next Congress by vowing to be unified and relentless in their insistence that this year’s health care overhaul be repealed and that most domestic spending be frozen or cut drastically.
The GOP, which gained at least 60 seats in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate in Tuesday’s election, showed no appetite for bipartisan cooperation.
“The mandate for change is directed at the other guys,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said during a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “We are right where we have been.”
Where they’ve been for the past two years is marching mostly in lockstep on issues central to the Republican platform, such as health care, global warming and spending — and against the Democrats’ agenda.
Don’t look for much change, GOP leaders said.
They’ll want Bush-era tax cuts extended permanently. “The best thing we could do for families and job creation is to extend the current rates as soon as possible for as long as possible,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.
They’ll want votes on repealing the health care overhaul, even though they know that President Obama would veto any such effort.
McConnell conceded that his party won’t be successful right away on health care. But, he said, “We can compel administration officials to attempt to defend this indefensible health spending bill and other costly, government-driven measures. But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government,” he added, “the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things.”
Democrats fired back.
“Republicans have always been the party of putting big business over the middle class,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, “and they are wasting no time in trying to jam through favors for big corporations at the expense of hardworking families who are struggling to make ends meet.”
One centerpiece of the Republican strategy is to build for 2012, when 21 Senate Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats and 10 Republicans face re-election.
“We have a reasonable shot of getting a majority in the near future,” McConnell said.
As part of that push, one of his party’s major themes will be to build a case that Democrats are woefully out of touch.
That’s particularly important to the Tea Party loyalists.
“Believe me, they’re in a no-compromise stance,” GOP pollster Bill McInturff said. “They don’t want engagement with the president; they don’t want to work across party lines; they want now-former Speaker Pelosi’s agenda totally and irrevocably stopped and reversed.”
That’s the theme that congressional leaders are stressing.
Democrats “set about dismantling the free market, handing out political favors at taxpayer expense, expanding government and creating a more precarious future for our children,” McConnell charged.
“In other words, Democrat leaders used the crisis of the moment to advance an agenda Americans didn’t ask for and couldn’t afford. And then they ignored and dismissed anyone who dared to speak out against it.”
He also had a warning to Republicans not to get too haughty: “Voters didn’t suddenly fall in love with Republicans; they fell out of love with Democrats.”