Having spent the last several weeks defending themselves from Democratic attacks on their proposal to reform Medicare, Republicans are going on the offensive in an effort to hit the other side where it hurts: jobs and the economy. House GOP leaders unveiled on Thursday their “Plan for America’s Job Creators” to kick-start the growth portion of the party’s “Cut and Grow,” agenda outlined last November.
“We have said all along there are two tracks,” House majority leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said earlier this week announcing the new plan. “This is the other piece of the painting. The one side of the painting is about spending reductions and managing down the debt through expenditure reduction. The other is about growth.”
The plan includes a package of proposals calling for lower taxes, fewer government regulations, increased domestic energy production, and the ratification of pending free-trade agreements. Many of the ideas are taken directly from the GOP’s “Pledge to America” and reflect the ongoing efforts of the various House committees.
“Just because we’ve proposed it in the past doesn’t mean it is not a good idea,” House speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) told reporters. “I think the package that we have represents a lot of traditional ideas and new ideas about how to let the private sector create jobs.”
Republicans say their plan stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s “top-down” approach to the economy. “Government is too big,” Boehner said. “It spends too much, it taxes too much, and it gets in the way of the free-enterprise system, the greatest job creator in the world.”
The GOP proposes to encourage free enterprise by lowering the corporate- and individual-tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, eliminating many federal regulations on businesses, requiring congressional approval of any new regulations with a “significant” impact on the economy, streamlining the nation’s patent system, providing tax incentives for domestic energy production, and “fundamentally” reforming the tax code to increase the country’s competitiveness in the global economy. The plan also calls for the immediate ratification of stalled free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, which Republicans say would create up to 250,000 new jobs.
Democrats have long criticized the House Republican majority for what they view as its failure to make good on a promise to focus on creating jobs. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) dismissed the GOP plan as “warmed-over stew.”
Boehner, however, rebuffed suggestions that Republicans’ focus on cutting spending has been a distraction when it comes to creating jobs, arguing that the party’s efforts have helped create a better environment for job creation, and will continue to do so. “One of the uncertainties that hangs out there for investors and business people is this $14.3 trillion worth of debt and a budget deficit this year of $1.5 trillion” Boehner said. “That scares small-business people to death.”
Democrats also accuse Republicans of advancing this agenda now as a way to distract from the negative fallout from the party’s proposal to reform Medicare, particularly in the wake of the GOP candidate’s surprising defeat in a special election in New York’s conservative 26th congressional district.
John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster, tells National Review Online he has been urging House Republicans to start with the “growth” portion of their agenda since day one. “Anywhere in the country outside the Beltway where you take a survey, people will tell you it’s all about jobs and the economy,” he says.
The GOP’s lack of a compelling message on jobs and economic growth, McLaughlin suggests, cost them in the New York special election. “If you don’t have a message, then you’re playing defense on whatever Democrats are attacking you for,” he says. “In this case, it’s Medicare.”
On a bright side, though, the race could serve as a “wake-up call” for the party, he says, not only by highlighting the need for Republicans to be more aggressive in their defense of Medicare reform, but also in that it should remind the GOP not to focus on any one issue without tying it back to economic growth. “One helps the other,” he explains. “If you’re growing the economy, you won’t have to make reforms to Medicare that are as severe.”
Even if their proposals fail — like many other aspects of the House GOP agenda — to make it past the Senate, Republican are hoping to “further define the choice” for voters in 2012. “Essentially, the choice is going to be more taxes and more government, versus more growth and more jobs,” Cantor said.
Still, some are optimistic that Democratic opposition in the Senate is not a foregone conclusion. “They have 23 members up for reelection next year who will want to hold onto their seats,” a Republican aide tells NRO. “They presumably want the president to be reelected, but it’s just not going to happen unless they relinquish their stranglehold on the economy.”
— Andrew Stiles is a 2011 Franklin Fellow.