Even before Donald Trump got in hot water for his remarks about a Mexican-American judge and suggesting President Obama might be complicit in the Orlando attack, House Republicans were planning to unveil their own agenda this summer.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump recently taunted GOP congressional leaders, saying they need to get tougher. If they don’t, Trump said, he will “just do it by myself.”
It seems they were already letting him go it alone. This month, House Speaker Paul Ryan has been unveiling a series of new policy proposals called A Better Way.
“Let’s face it, people know what Republicans are against,” he said. “Now, we’re going to give you a plan that shows you what we are for.”
Among other initiatives, the six-part plan requires those receiving federal benefits to spend more time working or looking for a job. It also addresses strengthening the nation’s borders but not merely through building a wall.
For many in Washington, the series of House Republican proposals draws a stark contrast with what Trump has been promising voters.
U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., suggested Trump get on board with the House proposals.
“I believe Speaker Ryan has discussed this with Mr. Trump, and I support Speaker Ryan and his agenda,” he said. “I hope that these provisions are placed in our platform.”
For Lance, setting out a clear vision for the GOP is important and hearkens back to Newt Gingrich’s ascendancy as speaker in the early ’90s with a simple contract that Republicans campaigned on.
“Certainly the Contract with America was very helpful in having achieved Republican control of the House in the first time in 40 years, and I hope that the American people will review our policy proposals.” he said. “And I believe the American people, by and large, agree with our policy proposals.”
But Pennsylvania Republican Pat Meehan of Delaware County said he doesn’t think Ryan’s effort will galvanize Republicans, though he said it will be a useful tool for the party.
“I don’t know that anyone will be running on these things, but I think that it is clearly a good undertaking to begin to identify issues and solutions that are able to be used as a basis for conversation with the American people,” he said.
South Jersey Republican Tom MacArthur, who said he’s planning to run the same type of campaign he ran two years ago, said the issues haven’t changed.
“It’s the same today — it’s about security and the economy. Right now, security is in very sharp focus for obvious reasons, but the two of them are interlinked, and they are what’s most essential,” he said. “We have to have the strongest economy in the world, and we have to have the strongest military in the world.”
MacArthur said he’s glad the first proposal Ryan unveiled was meant to help the nation’s poor.
“I think it’s really important to show voters, not only what we stand for in the head, but what we stand for in the heart,” he said. “Here we have an opportunity to try to really improve people’s lives by going at poverty in different ways, so I applaud that.”
But Democrats aren’t buying what the GOP is selling.
Congressman Bill Pascrell of North Jersey offered a preview of the Democratic critique.
“Well, the poverty program will put more people into poverty. The financial program will put us deeper into debt and raise taxes, and it would cost about $2 trillion,” Pascrell said.
Pascrell said he’s enjoys watching rank-and-file Republicans trying to distance themselves from the party’s nominee. But early Trump backer Congressman Tom Marino, R-Pa., said the GOP disowns Trump at its own peril.
“You have these guys around here that are delusional, you have the establishment ones that want to make sure they keep their positions, their power,” he said. “I’m as much sick about it as my constituents and the people around the country are.”
Much of this will be in flux until the party’s official platform is hammered out July 18 to 21at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.