December 6, 2013

Republicans shaping a 2014 agenda

Some want a bold approach, others moderate, but all want it to be positive.

By Paul Kane
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Coming to the end of a year of that has bitterly divided their caucus, House Republicans are grappling with how bold they should be in shaping a legislative agenda for 2014.

click image to enlarge

House Speaker John Boehner and Republican House leaders on Capitol Hill earlier this week after a news conference following a closed-door strategy session. Boehner said Thursday he was helping train Republicans in how to avoid offensive remarks.

The Associated Press

Some want a modest approach focusing on oversight of the Affordable Care Act, while others are pushing for a broad alternative to President Obama’s health-care plan, hoping that it would stand as evidence of a positive GOP agenda heading into next year’s midterms. Some believe that a jobs agenda is critical, while others want to craft unique proposals related to education and poverty.

The sprawling set of issues have only one common denominator so far: avoiding some of the self-inflicted wounds that cost them so dearly in recent election seasons. One clear indication of the cautious mind-set came Thursday when House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio acknowledged that he is helping train Republicans in how to deal with female challengers next year, so that they can avoid some of the offensive remarks of GOP candidates in years past.

“Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be,” Boehner said.

And across their ideological spectrum, House Republicans now say that they want to avoid shutting down the federal government and other blunders that Democrats could turn against them in the election year.

“Look, we don’t want to be the obstructionists,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who refused to vote in October to keep the government open if it funded the health-care law, said Wednesday in an interview


Massie is one of many aggressive conservatives lowering expectations for next year, embracing the realization that their effort to shut down the government as an attack on the Affordable Care Act was a strategic failure. He is now ready to pass a funding resolution for the rest of 2014 with those health-care funds in it to avoid another political pitfall.

“I’m ready to go with existing law on budget, so, that shows you where my expectations are, and I think it’s the best way to avoid a shutdown,” Massie said.

The 2014 agenda is still several weeks away from being formally crafted, which typically occurs in late January at the annual issues retreat. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia has already begun holding meetings with GOP lawmakers to try to figure out which items need attention and which need to be on the back burner. An election year almost always brings an extra layer of political sensitivity, and history suggests that the midterm election in year six of a presidency is troublesome for the party of the commander in chief. That combined with Obama’s falling approval ratings from the health-care mess has some Republicans envisioning pickups in November 2014.

That is in stark contrast to mid-October, when Republicans feared their majority might be in jeopardy because the public was so outraged by the shutdown. Some are cautioning against any new, big proposals that might give Democrats an opportunity to distract from the health-care quagmire by targeting new GOP proposals.

“It may be politically prudent to do nothing,” said Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who comes from the establishment wing of the Republican Conference. But Nunes said there was a “responsibility” to be more than just against the health-care law, a sentiment that was echoed by a cross-section of Republicans.

“We need to have the Republican alternative. You’ve got to be for something,” said Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, a close Boehner ally.

“We’ve laid it out with a lot of individual bills. I think it’s time to put it altogether,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of an influential conservative caucus, said.

(Continued on page 2)

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