Republicans focus on tax cuts for recess

House Republican leaders largely avoid mentioning former President George W. Bush in their August recess package to GOP members.

Instead of calling for an extension of Bush’s tax cuts, which House Republican leaders support, they refer to the looming “Democrats’ tax hikes.”

Under the heading “Job Creation,” Republicans call the expiring tax cuts, set to lapse at the end of this year, a Democratic plan “on increasing taxes by $3.8 trillion.”

The scarce references to Bush come as Democrats attempt to tie the Republican Party to the 43rd president three months before the midterm elections.

The only mention of the ex-president occurs when House Republicans compare his record to President Obama’s. And the message they express is essentially that Bush’s record on spending was bad, but Obama’s is much worse.

The document, provided to The Hill, states, “Since taking office, President Obama has spent more than $6.1 trillion in 18 months. At $333 billion per month, that is more than twice the amount spent during the first two years of the George W. Bush administration.”

Looking to define the GOP as they brace for losses in November, Democrats are blaming Bush and congressional Republicans for the nation’s record deficit due to the wars in Afghanistan, tax breaks for the wealthy and a Medicare prescription drug benefit that wasn’t paid for.

GOP lawmakers counter that the deficit exploded with the enactment of the economic stimulus and other laws in this Congress, adding that the overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system threatens to bankrupt the country.

Republicans want to move forward with new solutions instead of focusing on the past, according to Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

“It’s a reflection of the reality that that’s the past and we’re talking about the future,” Camp said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging voters not to be fooled. In a speech on Wednesday, she said Republicans want to return to the “failed policies of the Bush administration.”

“Congressional Republicans are promising a trip back to the ‘exact same agenda’ of the Bush years. … We want to move forward. We are not going back,” Pelosi said at the annual Communications Workers of America conference in Washington.

The Hill reported earlier this week that House Democrats plan a six-week messaging campaign for the August recess that focuses on Bush and what they have accomplished in the 111th Congress.

The strategy, coordinated with the White House, is designed to put Republicans on defense by forcing them to explain how they would lead the country should they win control of Congress.

The GOP recess document, crafted by Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), is a detailed 22-page guide to what House Republicans should be communicating over the crucial August recess.

The cover of the recess package, which is titled, “Tread Boldly: Solutions, Hard Work and No Regrets,” features photos of conservative icons Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt.

In preparation for the most important recess since they controlled the lower chamber in 2006, Republicans huddled on Wednesday at a special 90-minute closed-door conference meeting that included chiefs of staff.

According to sources who attended the meeting, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his troops that he’s “all in!” and encouraged his conference to give “100 percent” over the recess.

Pence directs Republican lawmakers to solicit feedback as part of the House GOP “America Speaking Out” initiative, urging them to listen to constituents’ proposed solutions for fixing the ailing economy and what the GOP believes is government overreach by Democrats.

That feedback will be key to the formulation of a new “Contract With America,” which will be released in the fall. House Republicans released their initial contract 16 years ago, before they won the House in 1994.

Pence provides a lengthy checklist for Republican lawmakers to complete while they are back home. Members are encouraged to convey the party’s talking points via interviews with the press, op-eds, editorial board meetings and press conferences. Pence urges his colleagues to be in contact with his office over the recess.

The recess document also lays out key topics to address in the dog days of August and early September: “Week One: Jobs. Week Two: Government Reform. Week Three: Spending. Week Four: National Security. Week Five: Healthcare. Week Six: JOBS.”

“Hold a town hall event” ranks at the top of a list of “Twelve Things Members Can Do To Promote America Speaking Out.”

Republicans hope to rekindle the flames of discontent that spread last year at raucous town hall meetings over the president’s healthcare and climate change bills.

“The intensity that arose at town halls in 2009 has turned to voter resolve, and we look forward to drawing on its strength back in our districts,” Pence wrote.