House GOP strays away from sore subjects in platform rollout
MONONGAHELA, Pa. – House Republicans avoided sore subjects like abortion, election denialism and former President Trump as they rolled out their “Commitment to America” midterm messaging and policy platform on Friday.
Instead, the GOP leaned into the topics it wants on voters’ minds this fall: inflation, the border and the IRS.
“On our very first bill, we’re going to repeal 87,000 IRS agents,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said at the event, referencing language in the Inflation Reduction Act that includes $80 billion aimed at boosting the IRS workforce and audits of high-income earners.
“We could have just sat back and said, ‘Look at how bad their policies have been. Give us the majority and it’ll be different,’” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). “That, to us, isn’t good enough. We wanted to lay out a bold conservative vision to show the country there’s hope again, there’s not just one direction that’s far left.”
Republicans unveiled their platform about 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh at a warehouse for a commercial HVAC company, DMI Companies, that has 250 employees in southwest Pennsylvania and 400 nationwide.
The event had a town hall-like format, with brief introductions from McCarthy, Scalise and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and a lengthy question-and-answer portion with numerous friendly questions.
Release of the plan and its rollout came after more than a year of planning, and provided an opportunity for the House GOP to assert its claim to a majority that election analysts say is firmly within the party’s grasp this fall.
But with some metrics showing improved signs for Democrats, particularly with a surge in Democratic enthusiasm after the Supreme Court overturned abortion rights protections that had been granted by Roe v. Wade, a few doubts about how good the election could be for the GOP have crept up.
Abortion was not mentioned during the event. Republicans have pledged to “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers,” but leaders have declined to commit to bringing up national abortion ban legislation.
There was only a passing reference to Trump, who is the subject of numerous investigations. The Republicans did not talk about election reform issues or concerns about the integrity of election systems.
McCarthy told The Hill that he had talked to Trump a little bit about the plan when they spoke on the phone the other day, but that their conversation focused on other topics. “He thought a lot of it looked pretty good,” McCarthy said.
Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), a member of the House Administration Committee that oversees election issues, said that what was highlighted at the event is only a portion of what Republicans will do in the majority. Republicans on the committee revealed model election reform legislation earlier this year.
“I think as we present to the American people, what are the four key pillars that are going to be put in place when Republicans come in, that’s what you heard here today,” Steil said. “I think there’s going to be additional policies that we have an opportunity to work on and enhance.”
More than two dozen House Republicans joined top GOP leaders at the event for the rollout, including a number of McCarthy allies like Steil and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), but also Freedom Caucus firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who is challenging Stefanik for House GOP Conference Chair. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), chair of the moderate Republican Governance Group, was also in attendance.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), who represents the district that encompasses the warehouse, argued that the ideological variance shows the strength of McCarthy — who is eying the Speaker’s gavel if Republicans win the House next year.
“We’re all united behind Kevin McCarthy,” Reschenthaler said.
Greene on Thursday declined to say whether she would support McCarthy for Speaker. And while she was included in the event on Friday, she was not one of a handful of members invited to answer audience questions.
“I don’t know the ins and outs on why I wasn’t asked to answer questions,” Greene told The Hill. But she expressed appreciation for being involved in the process, and support for looming GOP investigations.
“I want people fired for what they have done to our country,” she said.
McCarthy said that the members who were invited to answer questions were those involved on task forces specific to the issues.
“You couldn’t bring every member here, but Marjorie participated in a lot of stuff,” McCarthy said.
The HVAC facility prepared for weeks to host the event, according to an employee, moving shelves of supplies out of the warehouse and setting up technical infrastructure to support dozens of members of the media and cameras.
Those in the invited crowd of around 150 included local business owners, parents and local activists, such as the head of a human trafficking awareness organization.
Earlier in the day in Pittsburgh, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) held a counter-programming event at the United Steelworkers headquarters, casting McCarthy’s platform as advancing “MAGA extremism.”
“Leader McCarthy, of course, is in Pennsylvania today because he wants voters … to ignore that a majority of House Republicans voted to overturn the 2020 election,” Hoyer said.
Trump “incited and deployed people to the Capital of the United States to overturn the will of the people. To subvert the Constitution of the United States of America. To undermine our democracy,” Hoyer said.
–Updated at 1:23 p.m.