McConnell taps Hoeven for platform

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) will play a leading role in hammering out the 2012 GOP platform for the party’s convention this summer. 

The freshman senator, tapped for the post by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will have the tricky task of bridging differences between Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans on an array of issues. 

Hoeven said McConnell asked him about the post about a week ago. 

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“He asked me if I’d do it and I said I will,” said Hoeven, who will work on the platform with a representative from the House Republican Conference and the Republican Governors Association. 

The selection of Hoeven, who served 10 years as governor of North Dakota, puts him in the middle of contentious internal party debates on immigration, healthcare and other issues. 

“The House will have a point person on it and the governors association will have a point person, too. The three of us will work on it,” he said. 

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to reveal who will represent the House on the committee. 

In 2008, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) served as co-chairmen of the panel.  

Immigration presents the platform committee with one of its thorniest challenges. 

President Obama’s decision to halt the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the nation at a young age puts the GOP in a tough position. 

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken advocate of tougher immigration laws and enforcement, said he would sue to suspend the executive order. 

McConnell told reporters Tuesday that Senate Republicans would wait for Romney to take the lead on the issue. 

Hoeven acknowledged that immigration will be a challenge for the platform committee to handle.

“Over the next few weeks we’ll see more on that. It’s going to depend a little bit on how the Romney campaign approaches it and also to see what else develops in both the House and the Senate,” he said. “It is a challenging issue.”

The 2008 Republican platform opposed “amnesty” while calling for the enactment of E-Verify, an Internet-based system that verifies the identity of employees. Romney backs E-Verify, and a House panel has passed such a bill. 

But the legislation has also attracted critics on the right, causing House GOP leaders to shelve it.

The other big question facing the GOP platform committee is how to proceed on healthcare. 

Lawmakers are waiting for the Supreme Court to rule soon on the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The court could uphold the law, strike it down entirely or rule against only its central provisions. 

If the justices leave part of it standing, Republicans would have to decide whether to push for repeal of the surviving portions. They must also decide how to replace it. 

“Republicans have talked about a step-by-step process to replace it,” Hoeven said. 

He said Republicans want reform “that really empowers individuals to make choices about both their healthcare coverage and their healthcare provider, things like more competition across state lines, tort reform to help reduce costs, health savings accounts.”

He must find ways to finesse policy differences between Romney and congressional Republicans on term limits, nuclear waste storage, capital gains tax rates and other issues. 

Romney in January endorsed congressional term limits, an idea congressional leaders have abandoned since the 1994 Contract With America. 

The presumptive nominee has also called for a permanent ban on congressional earmarks, a view that is not shared by some Republican appropriators. While the bulk of GOP lawmakers supported a temporary moratorium, some senior members say it should be rescinded eventually. 

Romney said other states should make bids for storing nuclear waste if Nevada, an important battleground state, rejects the continued operation of the Yucca Mountain repository. Boehner and other Republican lawmakers have voiced support for using Yucca as the nation’s primary storage facility. 

Romney has vowed a tougher approach on Chinese currency manipulation, an issue Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has championed. The Senate last year passed a bipartisan China currency bill. Boehner, however, has criticized the legislation as “dangerous.”

On the tax front, Romney has proposed ending capital gains taxes for families earning less than $200,000 in income, a threshold congressional GOP leaders have not endorsed. The House-passed Ryan budget did not include Romney’s $200,000 cutoff. 

Hoeven said he would head to Tampa, Fla., the week before the start of the convention and “have four days to finalize the platform.”

“We’ll do some work ahead of time to try and draw input and get people thinking and get their ideas and make sure we’ve done some preliminary homework to be ready for that the week prior,” he said. 

The Senate and House appointees to the platform committee will work with representatives from state parties across the country to craft a platform the party can unify behind for the home stretch of the general election. 


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