Leadership races: House candidates have their say

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.)

I am running for Republican leader, because I believe that Republicans did not just lose our majority on Election Day 2006 — we lost our way. We are in the wilderness because we walked away from the limited-government principles that minted the Republican Congress. But there is a way out. “The way out of the wilderness,” author Mark Helprin wrote, “is the truth; recognizing it, stating it, defending it, living by it.” Here is the truth as I see it.

The Truth:

After 1994, Republicans committed to a balanced budget, entitlement reform and the principles of a limited federal government. We delivered on all of these and responded to a national emergency with common-sense defense spending, homeland security and tax cuts that put our economy back on its feet.

However, in recent years, to the chagrin of millions of Republicans, our majority also voted to expand the federal government’s role in education by nearly 100 percent and created the largest new entitlement in 40 years. We also pursued domestic spending policies that created record deficits, national debt and earmark spending that has embarrassed us and caused many Americans to question our commitment to fiscal responsibility.

This was not in the Contract with America.

Democrats will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people did not quit on the Contract with America, our caucus did. In so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters.

As the Republican Conference meets to choose who will lead us in the days ahead, it is essential that we learn from the lessons of 2006. It is more important that we move forward with a renewed commitment to our principles and the vigor to do our duty.

The mission of our party has now changed. Our mission in the majority was to pass legislation reflecting Republican principles. The duty of the Republican minority in the 110th Congress will be to defeat the liberal agenda of the Democrat Party and become the majority in Congress again. Republicans will only defeat the Democrat agenda by presenting a positive, conservative message in vivid contrast to the big government liberalism of the new majority.

New Vision:

To renew the Republican majority, our conference must offer this nation a compelling vision of fiscal discipline and reform. It is written, “Without a vision, the people perish.” What is true of a people is also true of any political movement. The new Republican minority must rededicate itself to the ideals and standards that minted its majority in 1994. Only by renewing the promises of the Republican Revolution will we attain majority status again.  Now, as then, Republicans must pledge to promote and defend the agenda the American people elected us to advance: defend our nation, our treasury and our values. The GOP must again embrace the notion that Republicans seek the majority not simply to govern but to change government for the better.

New Voices:

I have great respect and appreciation for the hard work and leadership provided by our current leadership. Like most members of the conference, I have stood behind our leaders through good times and challenging times.  However, in this new time of challenge also comes opportunity. I believe Republicans must confront this moment with new leadership and new voices. We must take a page from the playbook of former President Reagan who taught us that it is not enough to believe great things, we must effectively communicate great things to the American people.

To retake the majority, Republicans must “be strong and courageous and do the work.” We must renew our commitment to the agenda of the majority of the American people, and defend our nation, our treasury and our values for ourselves and our posterity.

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Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)

I am running because I believe that ideas make a difference, and because when the Republican agenda matches America’s agenda of less government and more freedom, our party prospers.

Once we were on the verge of becoming a permanent majority, and now we are not, but it’s still up to us to stand up for the tax cuts, balanced budget and privacy protection that Americans expect. We should take this reversal of fortune for what it is, an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the things that America believes in.

For starters, I know that the essence of good politics is good policy, and we can achieve it by changing the way we legislate. It seems to me that the open procedure used so successfully in the Energy Policy Act conference committee can work anywhere.

Chairmen and ranking members may meet when they choose and discuss what they like, but conference committees should do their business with open meetings, unlimited amendments and public votes.

Moreover, policy meetings with the president are not for leaders only, and I hope to arrange sessions in which every House Republican can visit with the president once a year. And if I’m the next leader, I will guarantee every Republican the chance to meet directly with me.

The way back to the majority cannot begin with the wholesale elimination of our most viable candidates. Some of our best men and women just lost by narrow margins in Republican-leaning districts, and we should not simply wave goodbye and send them off to fend for themselves over the next two years. I’ll work with our campaign committee to make sure that those who want to run again get our encouragement and financial help.

We need to get ethics right, too, both for our party and for our House. It’s time to stop using corporate aircraft for official and campaign travel. In both cases, let’s pay our way, tell the public, and let them judge. Some will say we should just sit in Washington and listen to lobbyists, activists and journalists, but that’s hardly a way to produce sound policy for our country.

Along the same lines, when significant evidence of grossly improper conduct exists, Congress needs to suspend members from leadership and committee activity. Provocative text messages and a freezer full of bribes stand as memorable examples of bad behavior. No member’s floor vote should be impeded, but the House may suspend the privileges that it grants.

We also need to police ourselves without using ethics as a club. I propose that a board of former members and others who have no business before the House decide on the potential validity of ethics cases. The board should have equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, with the Republicans nominated by Democrats and the Democrats nominated by Republicans. When at least one Democrat and one Republican recommend an investigation, the ethics committee should pursue one vigorously. 

Finally, taking our message to the people starts with taking ourselves to the people. I propose a series of monthly “regional weekends” in which the leaders will explain policy, meet with the news media, and do fundraising for our party.

My ultimate guarantee is this: We will gain seats in each general election and if we do not regain the majority within three elections, I will not seek the position of minority leader. If we do our jobs, Americans will put control of the House in Republican hands again, and they won’t wait long to do it.

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Rep. Roy BluntRoy BluntSenate Dems: No August break without Zika deal Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Overnight Healthcare: Sanders, Clinton ally jockey for health gavel MORE (R-Mo.)

In politics there are no permanent victories, just as there are no permanent defeats. I am committed to making sure the Democrats’ victory this past Tuesday is as short as possible. But victory will not fall in our lap in two years. It will take a lot of hard work on the part of each and every member of the Republican Conference, but we are up to the task.

As part of the process of reclaiming our majority, we need to reflect on how we have governed, honestly assess our shortcomings and propose the best way to move forward.

We have a great team, and accomplished great things as a majority, but we can and will do better.

Republicans should not lose our confidence. Whether it was 1964, 1976 or 1992, as a party we have always demonstrated an ability to return from electoral defeats stronger, better organized, and more prepared to deliver on our vision of hope and opportunity for the American people. 2006 will be no different.

An honest assessment of the last few years of Republican governance in Washington reveals three distinct shortcomings. First, as the party in charge for most of the last six years, we have often become the defenders rather than the challengers of business as usual.

Second, we have failed to create a culture of less but better government, and too often have given in to the culture of spending so pervasive in Washington.

Finally, we have allowed our efforts to defend traditional values to be defined as little more than a politically driven effort to appease “family groups.” These disappointments, combined with a seemingly constant stream of ethics issues afflicting a few members of Congress, caused some in our movement to lose faith.

On the bright side, even with these shortcomings, low presidential approval numbers and uncertainty about Iraq, our candidates saw their ideas taking hold on the campaign trail. A shift of 78,000 votes in the entire country would have changed last Tuesday’s outcome.

And despite their electoral success, Democrats failed to offer an agenda that a majority of Americans support.

Republicans’ ideas didn’t get beat – we did.

I take each of these challenges very seriously and believe they represent an opportunity to more clearly define who we are, not just as a political party, but as a country.

We need to cut spending, and we will. We need to reform the welfare state by empowering citizens to make their own decisions, and we will. We need to defend traditional American values, and we will. We need to confront and defeat totalitarians who threaten our freedom, and we will.

Our job is not to defend business as usual, not to defend everything the government does, but to challenge it and see that it is done better. Our job is to insist on less and better government. Our job is to put our values above political expediency.

Now that they are in the majority, Democrats will have to demonstrate to the American people what they are for. Numerous Democrats ran on established Republican themes of limited government, tax relief and traditional values. The San Francisco agenda of their leader will be a rude awakening to the thousands of voters who thought they were electing conservative Democrats.

As Republican whip, I will work every day to unify the Republican Conference and ensure that these Democrats have an opportunity to vote with us and their constituents for our common-sense alternatives. If they choose instead to vote with the Democrat leadership and their extreme agenda, they will have to defend their about-face to the voters.

Recapturing our majority will take more than heated rhetoric. I look forward to making the Democrats be Democrats every day on the House floor to ensure that the Republican whip in the next Congress is the majority whip.

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Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

Last week, the power and the beauty of our American democracy was expressed again as the American people sent a resounding message for change. Voters want a new direction for America — and Democrats, who regained majorities in the House and Senate, are determined to deliver for them.

We are poised to make history by electing our leader, Nancy Pelosi, as the first woman Speaker, to pursue an aggressive Democratic agenda that addresses the needs of our nation and the American people, and to ensure that the executive branch is held accountable by a co-equal branch of government.

For the last four years, I have been honored to serve as the Democratic whip, working on a daily basis with Leader Pelosi and all the members of our caucus to bring us to this point. Together, our caucus has achieved unprecedented unity — and our unity, I believe, proved to be instrumental to our Election-Day victory.

Now, as part of the leadership team that helped Democrats regain the House majority, I would like to continue to serve as the new majority leader. Over the past several months, I have talked with almost every one of my House colleagues and members-elect, and am grateful for the depth of support I have received — from senior members, to members-elect, to progressives, to members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to Blue Dogs, to New Democrats.

I believe that it is absolutely critical that our new majority leader have the skills, ability and energy to reach out to every element of our diverse caucus and achieve consensus. And, I believe that I have established a strong track record in that regard over the last four years.

As majority leader, I would continue to work closely with Speaker Pelosi to ensure our party’s unity, as I have over the last four years. We have put forward responsible budgets, proposed smarter national security policies, advanced innovative ideas on energy independence, and stood strong against the privatization of Social Security. I have been proud to be a part of all of those efforts.

As majority leader, I also intend to work closely with Speaker Pelosi to pass our “Six for ’06” agenda, enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, raising the federal minimum wage, making prescription drugs more affordable, moving our nation toward energy independence, cutting college costs, and restoring fiscal responsibility.

In addition, I will meet with our committee chairmen and chairwomen early and often, as well as solicit members’ views on what they think ought to be in legislation under consideration. The success of our legislative program must be our paramount objective. We have a two-year period in which to demonstrate that we can govern and lead — and our success will be critical to our ability to retain the majority.

Our new Leader must have an unwavering commitment to core Democratic principles. I also believe that our new majority leader must be an effective communicator who can persuasively deliver our Democratic message on the range of issues that confront our nation — from national security, to the budget and taxes, to healthcare and education, to energy and the environment. And our new leader must have a proven track record as a legislative strategist and floor tactician who works on behalf of the Democratic Caucus.

I believe that I have demonstrated the experience and skills necessary to succeed in this role.

I am proud of my service to the Democratic Caucus, and look forward to taking our country in a new direction as the next House majority leader.

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Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.)

The American people sent us a clear message last Tuesday: Business as usual in Washington is no longer acceptable. On Election Day, Republicans received a vote of no confidence.

The election was not a mandate for a Democrat agenda so much as a repudiation of the way Washington has conducted itself — too much corruption, including the appearance of plush lifestyles and excessive coziness with lobbyists, the appearance of self-dealing, too many earmarks, and too much spending. It is critical that we listen to the voters and heed their call for change. We must learn from the past so we can look to the future with confidence and optimism.

Republicans came to Washington as reformers. We reformed welfare, balanced the federal budget, and reduced tax rates. We have much to be proud of. However, somewhere along the way, we lost our way. Even after enacting the Shays Act, applying all laws that govern Americans to members of Congress, our conduct in the recent past has created the impression that we think we are above the law. As a result, we find ourselves out of power for the first time in 12 years. It is critical that we listen to the voters and change.

When I ran for majority leader 10 months ago, my campaign was based on two major themes rooted in the Contract with America. I said we must rein in government spending. When we first took control of Congress, our majority had great success, but over time we began spending the people’s money at a rate reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.”

Second, I said we needed to change the way Washington works. In 1994, we promised to end the practice of politicians pulling the levers of power for personal or political gain. A lasting majority cannot support policies that enable self-dealing and expect to retain the trust of the people. The American people have not repudiated our basic principles. By embracing the Spirit of ’94 we can return to power and restore the public trust.

The job of minority whip is very different from that of the majority whip. The positions require different skill sets. The minority whip should serve as the loyal and vocal opposition to the majority party. While the job consists of whipping votes at times, the minority whip must be an aggressor during floor debate and in the media. He must stand up for the shared principles of our Conference, and he must be committed to winning back the majority.

Some argue that our whip is not a policy position. I strongly disagree. Ideas matter and we cannot win back the majority without them. I would point to Newt Gingrich as an example of a thoughtful and articulate member who served as minority whip prior to leading the Republican takeover in 1994. Newt realized that politics and policy need to go hand-in-hand if you want to win.

The elections results were sobering, but now we are presented with a chance to start over and wipe the slate clean by making a change in our leadership. I believe in our party and in our conference and I pledge to work with all of my colleagues to help lead us back into the majority. The first step on the road to winning back the majority begins with the vote on Friday to elect our new leaders. Together we will make a difference.

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Rep. John BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE (R-Ohio)

I’ll be the first to admit it: The Republican Party took a beating this election cycle. However, the initial news accounts and analysis of this election got it all wrong.

By and large the pundits have portrayed this as a “repudiation” or “rejection” of Republican and conservative principles. On the contrary, this election reflected the American public’s thirst for the very tenets that brought Republicans to the majority for the first time in 40 years.

All across the country, Republicans and Democrats alike campaigned — and won — by focusing on voters’ desire for smaller, more accountable government; fiscal responsibility; and strong national security. In order to win, Democrat candidates had to run away from the weak, big government, tax-and-spend policies of the liberal Democrat establishment.

Our defeated members know this better than anyone. After discussing the election with many of them and hearing their thoughts on where to go next, I’m more convinced than ever that we need to start by rebuilding the Republican brand.

To regain our majority in 2008, House Republicans need to get back to our core principles and rededicate ourselves to the reform mindset that put us in the majority 12 years ago. We must rebuild the Republican coalition by focusing on reform ideas because they will not only win broad-based support among House members, but among the American people. As Republican leader, I pledge to help make that happen.

It’s something you’ve heard me say time and time again: Good policy equals good politics. As Republican leader, I will manage policy development to contrast our philosophy of limited government and personal responsibility with that of the big-spending, tax-raising House Democrats.

In 1994, we had a full arsenal of compelling legislative ideas on a wide range of issues to rebut a liberal Democrat agenda. That arsenal needs replenishment. Together, we’ll produce a next generation of great Republican ideas while always adhering to our core principles: a smaller, smarter, less-intrusive federal government. We’ll draw on the talents of every member, and look to the outside for solutions that will capture the nation’s attention.

As we did in 2006, we will win the debate on the floor. And while we’ll lose more votes than we win, we will endeavor each and every day to win the news.

We’ll aggressively sell these solutions inside and outside the Beltway, using traditional and new media, and our network of friends and allies throughout the country. This will be hard work — no one leader can do this — but working together as a team, we can get it done.

The Republican leader also must fight for fairness for all Republican members, in committee assignments, resources and process.

The leader must look in every corner of every Democrat-held district to help recruit candidates to win back the majority, and to ensure our candidates have the resources they’ll need to compete and win.

My collective experiences in the House — as a minority backbencher; as a coauthor of the Contract with America; as House Republican Conference chairman; as chairman of a committee; and as House majority leader — have given me the perspective and experience our Conference needs to lead this effort.

Let me tell you: I’ve been in the minority before. I have no interest in staying in the minority, and I want to lead our efforts to earn our way back to the majority. I’ve promised reform in the past and I’ve helped deliver results. I know what it takes to win and I’m committed to making it happen again. If House Republicans honor me with their vote, I will help lead the way.

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Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.)

I learned early on the meaning of duty. Through 37 years in the U.S. Marines and 32 years in Congress, I’ve spent the better part of four decades serving my country and my constituents. This Thursday, I’ll ask my Democratic colleagues for the privilege of serving my party as majority leader.

Last Tuesday’s election was a referendum on Iraq and the GOP’s handling of the war. This Thursday’s election will decide which candidate is the best person to work with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of our Democratic leadership team to lead our party forward and bring about the change that the American people want.

Democrats deserve leadership that speaks truth to power and acts with the power of truth. Almost a year ago today, I announced that I could no longer support the president’s direction in Iraq and called for redeployment of our troops. I was attacked at the time by the president and supporters of the war, but I believed then as I do now that partisan politics should never take precedence over the well-being of our troops and the security of our nation.

I’m proud to have helped lead my party’s discussion on Iraq and communicate that message across the country. Whether speaking out on television, raising money, or traveling across the America for scores of candidates, my focus on changing the direction of our country never wavered. Last Tuesday, the American people endorsed that message and swept a new Democratic majority into both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years.

Now we must demonstrate to the American people that the Democratic Party is prepared to act with unity and determination. Through Nancy Pelosi’s leadership our caucus entered Tuesday’s election more unified than we have been in 50 years, and we must continue that unity into the 110th Congress if our new Democratic Majority is to be effective.

America has charged the Democrats with turning this war around. It is our most pressing responsibility. We have two distinct but overlapping constituencies: our civilian constituents and our military men and women. If we expect to exert leadership in wartime, we owe the men and women sacrificing for their country the benefit of a Democratic team with military experience and the proven ability to stand up to an administration averse to change. As a combat veteran, I’ve earned that support and trust from our military men and women. I will work side by side with Speaker Pelosi to protect our troops and strengthen our country’s national security.

Talk is cheap, but empty rhetoric is expensive. America’s three years of a failed war has cost us nearly 3,000 precious lives and will cost us a trillion dollars by the time we can extricate ourselves from it. Every day we spend mired in Iraq is time lost in finding a solution to rising healthcare, ending our dependence on foreign oil, strengthening our homeland security, ensuring retirement security for future generations, stimulating a lackluster economy, and making college tuition affordable.

In addition to solving these problems, I also stand ready to help Nancy Pelosi implement the Democrats’ Honest Leadership, Open Government plan, so we can restore credibility and a record of accomplishment to this institution.

We must set a new standard for leadership in this Congress. Americans are watching and we must lead by example. That is the tone I hope to set as majority leader of the United States House of Representatives.