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Feehery: 6 tips for the new House majority

U.S. Capitol
Greg Nash
The U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front Plaza in Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 28, 2022.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose — the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

This old French saying epitomizes how the House Republicans must view their ability to govern in the face of a slim majority and a Democratic-controlled Senate. 

We have seen this before. We have seen everything before. And while politics might seem to be fundamentally and irretrievably different, basic human instincts remain largely unchanged.  

For Republican politicians who are newly elected to the majority, the challenges might seem insurmountable. A disappointing election. An angry base. An intractable Senate. A president who opposes everything that they are trying to do.  

So how does the House Republican leadership lead under these difficult circumstances? Here are six tips to surviving and then keeping the majority in the next two years. 

First, adequately set expectations. The old method of underpromising and overdelivering works, but is not sufficient. You can’t set expectations so low that supporters start asking the question, why bother? Republicans have to constantly remind their base that stopping President Biden’s agenda is well worth the effort of seizing the majority as they set a course for victory for their voters. 

Second, provide a solid gameplay for governance. Returning to regular order is a tested and true way to show that a majority understands how to run the legislative branch. It may seem silly, but spend some time putting together a budget. Outline an authorization process that makes sense. Get your spending priorities together early, and then do the due diligence that is the hallmark of the appropriations process. Grind out small win after small win. And for God’s sake, get rid of all of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) ridiculous COVID-19 restrictions. Open the House back up and get all legislators back to work. 

Third, identify three to four issues that resonate with all but the most doctrinaire progressives and spend your time focusing on them. I would suggest a general theme of securing American freedom. The issues I would focus on are energy security, border security, crime control, and economic security (education is a topic upon which Republican governors should take the lead).  

Fourth, coordinate with the Senate. The upper chamber is a constant annoyance to an aggressive, ambitious and rambunctious House majority, but it sure comes in handy when the other side is in control. In many ways, having the Senate controlled by the other side is an unwanted blessing, because it will necessarily dampen expectations of what can be achieved. But having the House majority and the Senate minority come up with a joint game plan will lead to better communication and a greater ability to achieve victories. 

Fifth, be ready to not only deal but to sell the deal. Politics is all about the ability to come up with negotiated settlements. But negotiating losing deals can depress the base and lose you your majority. Some basic principles apply. Don’t alienate a majority of your majority. A united team is stronger than a divided one. Keep faith with your echo chamber. Simple messaging trumps complex rationales. Always communicate openly and transparently. Don’t lie.  

And finally, a good leadership team is constantly listening to its members. Former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) used to say that a leader without followers is a just guy out on a walk. Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) used to say that his job was less Speaker and more listener. And former Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) used to say that he would rather have a one-vote majority than a hundred-vote majority, because it inspired better discipline. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience to bring a team together. America is a big country with many competing interests that need to be adequately represented and appreciated.  

At the end of the day, if the American people feel the Republicans have done a decent job of protecting America by effectively governing, they will get another shot at keeping their majority in 2024. But they will only be successful if they stay united. 

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).  

Tags Biden Dennis Hastert GOP House majority midterms 2022 Nancy Pelosi Tips

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