Gillespie Corrects the Record for Reid

by Patrick Brennan

On Tuesday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid made an odd allusion on the floor of the Senate, citing Ed Gillespie, a former Bush White House counsel and Romney-campaign adviser, who’s currently chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Reid, in calling for Republicans to give up the current government-shutdown fight and pass a “clean” funding bill that doesn’t touch Obamacare, insisted Gillespie had recently hectored Republicans that they “have to start being for something, not against everything.” This is a little odd, since Gillespie began the remarks Reid cites, delivered last week at the annual retreat for the State Leadership Conference, by saying he hoped a House CR containing the Vitter amendment and a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate would succeed in breaking the impasse.

Reid’s position is that the Senate will not take up any government-funding bill that isn’t identical to the ones the Senate has already passed – Republicans who pass such a bill in order to begin uncertain negotiations, sans much leverage, would apparently be “standing for something.”

Gillespie took the chance to remind Reid in a letter on Wednesday that he stands in line with Speaker John Boehner, who’s called for negotiations between the two sides to begin immediately. “Republican governors and legislators work across the aisle daily to solve the most critical issues in their states. It’s an example of executive and legislative leadership you and President Obama would do well to emulate,” Gillespie wrote.

He did, though, have some more recommendations for congressional Republicans, in the vein of emulating their state counterparts. “We join them in staunch opposition to the president’s harmful policies,” Gillespie said of himself and state-level GOP leaders, but to make long-term, lasting gains, especially among more moderate voters, Republicans have to make a positive, practical case about why their policies will benefit ordinary Americans — as they have at the state level.

“Short-hand process arguments . . . resonate strongly with people who already agree with us, but [are] not really music to independent ears,” he said. “We need to break out of a speech pattern that dwells on process, and discipline ourselves to talk about the benefits of Republican policies.”

A positive message is key, he explained: “While expressing anger and frustration gives voice to our core voters, it doesn’t do much for all those worried and pessimistic voters. They want hope and optimism.” He highlighted the best of conservative policy proposals — from encouraging energy development to market-driven approaches to health care, and noted that Republican state leadership has succeeded politically by focusing on selling and implementing such policies. Their lessons should be applied at the federal level — unfortunately for Senator Reid, being for some things, like market-based health care and the prosperty created by low taxes and free labor markets, also means being adamantly against some others, like Obamacare.

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