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We have a Republican Speaker, but no Republican plan to speak of

Republicans have vehemently complained that President Biden and Democrats are taking the country and the economy in the wrong direction. But now that Republicans control the House of Representatives, what specifically do they intend to do instead? Your guess is as good as mine, because Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) never laid out a detailed plan.

It’s not a new problem for Republicans.

Remember when Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, in March of 2010 with no Republican support? Republicans subsequently used ObamaCare as a rallying cry: Vote Republican and we will “repeal and replace” ObamaCare.

Voters gave Republicans control of the House by a wide margin in the 2010 midterm elections, and they retook the Senate in 2014. By the time Republicans took back the White House in the 2016 election, they had been campaigning to repeal and replace ObamaCare for six years. But they never actually came up with the “replace” side of the slogan.

When I would give speeches on health care reform during those years, someone in the audience would invariably ask what the Republican plan was. I had to respond that there were some Republican plans, but no Republican plan. By that I meant that several Republicans had their own reform plans, but the GOP leadership had never put together legislation that Republicans could agree on and could vote for.

I was told by insiders that putting together a plan that had no chance of passing until Republicans had control of Congress and the White House was a bad idea since Democrats would only attack it, which no doubt was true. But Republicans still needed a plan for supporters and conservatives to rally around. Voters can’t make comparisons when there’s nothing to compare.

To be sure, then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) developed a good replace outline, but it was never fully vetted and put into legislative language. When Republicans finally got the chance to repeal and replace ObamaCare right after Donald Trump’s inauguration, they had no replacement plan.

So, they spent the next six months trying to come up with something Republicans could support. By that time, Democrats and the media had raised so many questions and concerns about the negative impact of repealing ObamaCare that Republicans had lost much of their initial momentum and public support. Repeal and replace failed, and ObamaCare remains the law of the land.

Fast forward to the 2022 midterm elections. Most voters were concerned about inflation and the economy, crime, health care, energy policy, abortion, the assault on the southern border, the impact of the war in Ukraine and the growing threats posed by Russia and China. It would have been a perfect time for someone who hoped to be Speaker of the House to work with GOP members to develop a detailed plan for addressing those problems. And for GOP candidates to campaign on.

That didn’t happen.

Yes, McCarthy released his “Commitment to America” last September. But it was widely panned by both sides for being lame and vague. Here’s how Henry Olsen, a respected, right-leaning columnist for the Washington Post, described it at the time, “The agenda, labeled the Commitment to America, doesn’t exactly provide a clear picture as to what a Republican-led House might actually do in power.”

But what specifically do Republicans plan to do now? Where’s their five-point or 10-point plan for tackling inflation or crime? What’s their plan for crimping Biden’s spending spree? Apparently, there is now some element of a plan for cutting spending, but that was part of the conditions the GOP holdouts imposed on McCarthy.

And what about a plan for addressing the thousands upon thousands of immigrants illegally crossing the border?

Oh, wait. There actually is a detailed plan for the border crisis. Only it didn’t come from McCarthy. It was created and signed by 28 Republican members of the Texas delegation and released in December. Getting McCarthy to agree to a House vote on the Texans’ immigration plan was also reportedly one of the holdouts’ demands.

Most of McCarthy’s concessions seem to be about process rather than policy. Yet most voters are more concerned with policy and how it affects their daily lives than with the intricacies of process, even if they are much-needed process changes. Having been late off the starting block outlining the GOP’s policy reform plans, the new Speaker has some catching up to do. You just can’t plan on it.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Affordable Care Act Commitment to America House Republicans Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy ObamaCare ObamaCare repeal Paul Ryan Speaker race

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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