GOP Senators Clash Over 'Contract With America' Manifesto

Image: GOP Senators Clash Over 'Contract With America' Manifesto Sen. Lindsey Graham talks to the press with, from left, Sens. John Barrasso, John Thune, Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 09:12 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Sen. Lindsey Graham has joined with a group of Republicans who want to come out with a Contract with America-style policy agenda for the midterm elections to prevent Democrats branding the GOP as "the party of no."

But they have clashed with another faction of Senate Republicans, especially party leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell facing tough campaigns in November, who fear that a conservative or even moderate manifesto will make GOP candidates sitting ducks easily targeted by the opposition, according to Politico.

Republicans in general believe pollsters who claim the GOP will take over the Senate later this year, leading to Graham’s group wanting to draw up a list of party principles showing they’re ready for the takeover, including repealing Obamacare and opposing higher taxes.
The faction plans to model the manifesto after the so-called "Contract with America," a 10-bill document that famously helped Republicans recapture the House in 1994, Politico reports.

Sen. John Barrasso, the fourth-ranking Senate Republican who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, has called on all ranking members of Senate committees to send him legislative measures they would either initiate or support if they become chairmen next year, Politico reported.

Whether the results turn out to be policy papers or an agenda of policy proposals, the Wyoming Republican said they would help highlight a series of GOP economic viewpoints, according to Politico.

But Barrasso’s plan does not appear to go far enough for Graham, who faces a GOP primary on June 10 he’s expected to win.

"I think it’s a strategic mistake for our party leadership not to come up with a document that has four or five action items," Graham told the political website, while issuing a warning to GOP leaders about the consequences of inaction.

The South Carolina Republican, who was a member of the House class of 1994, added, "I’ve tried to allow those in leadership to do this. If they don’t move forward soon, there will be a rebellion among the rank-and-file."

He’s been telling voters in his home state that Republicans would show they are the party of yes by writing down how they plan to govern, which would give credence to the GOP brand and help the party win back the Senate in November, Politico reported.

However, Republican leaders like McConnell, the Senate minority leader from Kentucky, are concerned that drawing up a manifesto of party proposals would just lead to intramural fighting between hardline conservatives and the more moderate establishment.

The rival group believes that the GOP would win more votes in November by focusing on the failures of the Democrats and President Barack Obama during the last six years, rather than draw up a contract they may have to break.

"Even if we have a good election, President Obama is still going to be president," Sen. John Cornyn, the minority whip from Texas, said when asked about a Contract with America-style agenda. "I don’t think we should be in the business of overpromising."

McConnell showed at a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky, last week that he may not be ready to talk about a GOP manifesto until the Republicans own the Senate. "I’m not prepared to announce what the agenda is going to be in January," he said. "We’re not measuring the drapes."

But in a speech to the conservative American Institute last week, he indicated that there were going to be major changes from the tenure of Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

He said, "A Senate majority under my leadership would break sharply from the practices of the Reid era in favor of a far more freewheeling approach to problem-solving."

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