While some conservative members of the Republican Party caused a stir during the speaker election this week, other members of the party appeared eager to move on and start governing, laying out their policy priorities Thursday.
Four members of the GOP spoke at a Capitol Hill Club event hosted by the Republican Main Street Partnership Thursday morning, explaining their agenda for energy, trade and education policies, and their goal of broadening the Republican base to attract more women. The Main Street Partnership is an advocacy group "aligned with the governing wing of the Republican Party," according to its website, and has the most members this Congress since its inception in 1993. Chief Operating Officer Sarah Chamberlain said it currently has 68 members, including 17 from the freshman class, thanks to Main Street's contributions to those new members' campaigns.
"We’re going to be doing a lot more policy work now that I’ve got so many members," Chamberlain said after the event.
Policy certainly dominated the discussion Thursday morning. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the first item on their agenda is approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
"We’re looking for a bipartisan vote there and obviously working with the Senate," Upton said. "I expect that their bill is likely going to be different than what we pass tomorrow, and that means we’re going to go to conference. So that means regular order. Who can complain about that?"
Also on Upton's to-do list is the "21st Century Cures" legislation, which modernizes medical data sharing, encourages young researchers to apply for grants and expedites the approval of new medicines and devices. Upton said he expected that bill to be drafted by February, introduced on the floor by Memorial Day and signed into law before the end of the year.
Upton also said his committee will be working on energy efficiency bills and updating the Communications Act, which includes addressing net neutrality.
These Republicans also hope to focus on an array of economic issues, which were laid out by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee. He said the committee will have to address tax extenders and the Social Security Disability fund this Congress.
Tiberi also said the committee, under new Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, will kick off its activities with a hearing next week on the economy. "We’re going to have our first hearing next week that’s going to look at that issue from a macro point of view: job creation, job growth, growing our economy,” Tiberi said.
The Ohio Republican will head the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade in the 114th Congress, and he is poised to act on trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Tiberi noted a "TPP agreement is within grasp.”
A new member of Congress also spoke at the meeting, highlighting other goals on transportation and infrastructure and education.
"We’re supposed to, and I hope we, reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in this Congress," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., a former member of the Miami-Dade County school board. "I’ll tell you something: No Child Left Behind is deeply flawed, there are many problems with it. However, the education reform movement that No Child Left Behind is a part of has saved public education in this country.”
While Republicans hope to tackle those policy issues in Congress, they are also focused on broadening their constituency, especially with the 2016 presidential election on the horizon. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., highlighted her work on Main Street's "Women 2 Women" tour around the country last year, pointing out that the GOP still has to work to bring women into the fold.
“As you all know, one of our issues is that we’ve got to do a better job messaging with women in this country," Ellmers said. "Women in this country, I believe, we are going to determine the next president and elections into the future. And the Republican Party is the party of women, we are the party of families, and we need to do a better job making sure that women in this country understand what we’re working on."
For the Republicans gathered on a frigid Thursday morning, controlling the Senate will be the key to proving they can get things done. Throughout the morning, lawmakers recalled bills that died in the 113th Congress in the Senate, and they were hopeful a GOP Senate can change that dynamic.
“We’re off to a good start,” Upton said.
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