House Republicans want to leave for the August recess on a high note, so they're planning to spend next week tackling their favorite targets: bureaucracy and regulations.
And an internal GOP playbook urging members to express their natural indignation at government exposes a simple truth about what the GOP is calling "Stop Government Abuse Week": Republicans know that bashing bureaucracy is an easy political win.
Much like the House Republican Conference August planning kit that CQ Roll Call obtained last week, the "#StopGovtAbuse Playbook” lays out a constituent outreach plan fueled by anti-government fervor.
The playbook addresses key messaging strategies on 10 measures, with the House Republican Conference conveniently telling its members just how fed up they should be with each bureaucratic misdeed.
The playbook contains a number of sample materials: press releases, letters, Facebook posts, tweets, op-eds, a video script, talking points, fliers, graphics and ready-to-tweet hashtags.
In doing so, it hopes to capitalize on an issue on which Republicans have a natural advantage.
“Stopping government abuse is a clear advantage for House Republicans because the American people know it’s the Democratic majority in Washington which has created a runaway government that abuses its power,” said Nate Hodson, the House Republican Conference’s communications director.
Red tape is not a phantom issue. A backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to hold up about 800,000 veterans disability compensation claims, for example.
While the issues Republicans will address are easier to deal with than the VA backlog, the politics of attacking bureaucracy are just as good.
The signature piece of the week is the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, which is also known as the bill to “Keep Federal Bureaucrats from Ruining the Economy and Lowering Wages."
The REINS Act would require congressional approval of any regulation that has an economic effect of $100 million or more.
“As I travel throughout our district,” the sample congressman or congresswoman writes to his or her constituents in a form letter, “I continually hear from families and businesses about the tremendous burden that regulations coming from Washington, D.C [sic] are having on them.”
“It is becoming increasingly evident that the bulk of our laws are not being written by our elected lawmakers,” reads one sample Facebook post.
The REINS Act would result in an estimated 50 to 100 additional votes each year, because it would allow Congress to weigh in on more proposed agency rules.
While a key aim of the week is to shift power back to Congress, another aim is to crusade against the IRS.
The Stop Targeting Our Politics IRS Act would allow the IRS to fire employees who engage in political targeting.
No one has been fired — yet — as a result of the IRS tea party targeting scandal; the investigation is ongoing. But a bill adding political targeting to the list of offenses applicable for immediate termination allows Republicans to complain about the expansion of the IRS' “size and scope” and its “abuse of power,” as a form letter contends.
Republicans get another messaging opportunity with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act of 2013, which makes sure IRS employees are familiar with certain taxpayer rights.
A form letter for the legislation, targeted at “women with children (ages 27-65),” assures the intended audience that Republicans are working to stop inappropriate IRS behavior.
Another sample letter for the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act aims to deepen the public's mistrust of Obamacare. Addressed to “Mr. Joe S. Sample,” the letter reads: “America’s skepticism toward the federal government and its ability to properly implement this legislation is well-founded.”
The bill would prevent the IRS from implementing any portion of the health care law.
Republicans are also battling bureaucracy with the Citizen Empowerment Act, which allows callers to record their conversations with federal agencies.
The House Republican Conference urges members to write a Facebook post about the “bloated bureaucracy” making life harder, that the bill will “stop big government overreach,” and that “it is time to help citizens fight back and #StopGovtAbuse.”
Two measures also seek to revive the scandal over the April 2012 General Services Administration's lavish Las Vegas conference.
The Government Employee Accountability Act, for example, would allow some government employees to be fired on the spot or placed on “investigative leave” without pay
A sample tweet about the bill reads: “In real world, failure has consequences. In Washington, it gets rewarded. Enough is enough. Time for a change. #RestoreTrust”