House Republicans have begun unveiling detailed alternatives to President Barack Obama’s policies — a concerted effort to push back against Democratic efforts to label them “the Party of No.”
On Wednesday, it was a housing plan. Thursday, it will be a big, TV-friendly stack of budget blueprints, “The Republican Road to Recovery.” That’s to match the president’s own platitudinous budget title, “A New Era of Responsibility.”
The House Republicans’ budget document, provided to POLITICO ahead of its release, makes sure no one can miss the point: Each chapter begins “The Republican Plan,” and each section is divided into “The President’s Budget” and “Republicans’ Solution.”
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the housing proposal that he rolled out with eight other House Republicans on Tuesday was “in response to the administration — and the president himself, who continues to say that Republicans don’t have any ideas.”
“We’re here today to say yes we do,” Cantor said. “This is one in a series. It will not be the last. We are committed to trying to pull the agenda back to the mainstream and to respond to the problems facing America’s families today.”
The documents — and the showmanship in releasing them — are the result of frustration by GOP leaders who repeatedly hear on TV that they have no alternatives.
In fact, they had their own plans. They just didn’t get much attention, partly because Republicans sometimes disagreed about them among themselves.
So the entire House GOP elected leadership will join Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, for Thursday’s event. “It’s the old ‘I want to see it in writing,’” said a top House Republican official. “They’re going to see it in writing.”
Another official said: “We need to hold something up and say, ‘Here are our charts. Here are our graphs. It’s real.’”
The principles in the Republican budget will sound familiar: “limits the federal budget from growing faster than the family budget, ... provides universal access to health care and secures entitlements, ... lowers taxes, ... keeps energy and fuel costs low, ... ends the bailouts and reforms the financial system, ... keep the cost of living low.”
Sounds ambitious, but it’s a lot easier to do when all you have to do is talk about it, not pass the legislation.
GOP leaders see these Obama alternatives as the starting point for a consistent party message going into next year’s midterms, where history suggests Republicans could have opportunities if the economy is still struggling.
Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, said at the news conference with Cantor: “Welcome to the next installment of the party of yes: yes to better solutions. Yes to alternatives that will resonate with millions of Americans because they are grounded in the timeless values of personal responsibility.”
Pence and the other Republicans at the news conference rapped Democrats and Obama for offering housing proposals that are no more than “failed policies that reward bad behavior and massively expand government programs.”
“Contrary to the administration’s straw man diversions, Republicans do have our own ideas,” Pence said. “These are solutions that are complementary and in some cases can replace what we believe are misguided attempts to try to do the same thing.”
Cantor challenged the idea that Republicans are acting when the horse is out of the barn, with the administration already implementing Obama’s plans. “First of all, the president knows different when he says that we do’t have a plan,” Cantor said. “And I think he would tell you, if he was being accurate, that from the first days of his administration, Leader Boehner and I went in and personally handed him our plan on the stimulus.”
Cantor called the Republican budget “a responsible attempt to restrain the growth in government, to return us back to a period of economic growth through tax relief and fiscal prudence.” The budget will also address entitlements, he added, saying it’s “in stark contrast to the smoke and mirrors inherent in the House Democrat plan.”
After Obama releases his detailed budget later this spring, House Republicans will do the same — matching his graphs with their graphs, his charts with their charts.