WASHINGTON – The Senate Republican leader promised on Thursday to rein in the size of government and make it more efficient if the party does well in November's congressional elections.
Republicans head into the autumn campaign hoping to make big gains against Democratic majorities in Congress, which would make it harder for President Barack Obama to advance his agenda on climate change, immigration and other issues.
But they lack a common platform other than opposition to most of Obama's policies. Obama has sought to portray Republicans as opposing him for political gain.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in a speech to a group of young Republicans, said the party would seek to deliver the changes he believes Americans crave, including limits to the size of government.
"What Republicans are offering the American people is a pledge, a pledge to do everything in our power to restore government to a size and scope that leads to some semblance of competency," he said.
In November 2 elections, Republicans stand a chance at gaining the 39 seats needed to take control of the House of Representatives. Winning the 10 seats needed to capture control of the Senate is tougher but not impossible.
Republicans will not make promises they cannot keep, the Kentucky senator said.
"We're not going to tell you that if you vote Republican you're going to wake up in your dream home with a brand new Corvette outside ready to take you to the best job in the world. You know why? Because government can't deliver that promise," McConnell said.
After losing control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, Republicans have made a comeback by emphasizing Americans' unhappiness with 9.5 percent unemployment and government spending and debt.
Republicans complain Obama has stifled the economy with too much federal government intervention. They cite the healthcare reform approved in March and a major financial regulation reform likely to win Senate approval on Thursday.
"This isn't about who's on top. It's about following through on the kinds of changes Americans want to see. It's about reversing the damage Democrats have done. It's about solving the crises in front of us. And those crises should be plain enough for anybody to see," McConnell said.
Republicans face their own internal battles with Tea Party conservatives seeking to oust moderates and they have no obvious challenger to Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
McConnell said Republicans have come back because "Americans have lost faith" in Democrats and in government. He cited Obama's attempt to persuade Americans that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill makes national energy legislation essential.
"As it turns out, when your entire pitch to the American people is that government will solve your problems, people get upset when government can't deliver. That's one reason Democrats are so unpopular right now," he said.
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