House Democrats delivered a preemptive rebuttal of their Republican peers’ policy rollout on Thursday, branding it as an “extreme” and “cynical” fusion of Donald Trump-inspired authoritarianism, infringements on key personal freedoms and traditional trickle-down economics.
In a conference call with reporters, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs House Democrats’ campaign arm, cited Democratic special-election wins in vacant House seats in Alaska and New York as evidence that the Republican policy agenda is already unpopular.
“Voters are rejecting the cynical reality that is the MAGA Republican movement, that is extreme and dangerous, that has taken away our reproductive freedom, that’s threatening our political freedom by ignoring the attack on our Capitol, and by making it harder to vote,” said Maloney, who spoke alongside Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison.
The Democrats’ frontal assault was timed to precede House Republicans’ rollout of the “Commitment to America,” a policy framework for a potential GOP governing majority. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top Republicans are unveiling the plan in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, an industrial town outside of Pittsburgh, on Friday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is due to respond to McCarthy with remarks in Pittsburgh itself.
But House Republicans’ big policy debut is already off to a rocky start. A web page with the plan’s core elements was leaked ahead of schedule on Wednesday.
McCarthy’s team quickly locked up the webpage ― and the materials it contained ― to the public before reopening it on Thursday. The triage was not enough to preclude the short-term political damage, however, as Democrats pounced on elements of the plan that they see as liabilities for the GOP.
House Democrats seized, in particular, on a part of the webpage where Republicans committed to “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” Coming on the heels of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s introduction of a national bill forbidding abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Democrats pointed to this section as a sign that House Republicans have a similar federal prohibition in store.
“Don’t let them fool you,” said Jacobs, the freshman cohort’s representative to House Democratic leadership, who is on a cross-country tour campaigning in support of swing-seat Democratic candidates. “Kevin McCarthy has promised that a Republican majority will pass a national abortion ban.”
“We’ve all seen just how dangerous the Republican Party’s war on women has been,” she added.
Jacobs went on to outline extreme cases of young women who suffered because of state-level abortion restrictions that took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned a constitutional right. Those examples include the ordeal of 10-year-old girl in Ohio whose mother had to drive her to another state to receive an abortion after she became pregnant from a rape.
As of Thursday night, the materials publicly available on the “Commitment to America” webpage still contained a pledge to protect “unborn children” in a section on “defending Americans’ rights under the Constitution.”
It also criticized the provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that would empower Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.
“The Democrats’ drug takeover scheme could lead to 135 fewer lifesaving treatments and cures,” the site says in a section discussing health care policy.
House Democrats have also interpreted a Republican promise to “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare” as a veiled threat to cut the beloved programs’ benefits.
“They want to undo all of the legislation that Democrats have passed to lower prescription drug costs, and they want to cut Social Security and Medicare, and their agenda will continue to undermine our democracy,” Harrison said. “They want to roll back our rights and make it harder to vote. They are relentlessly committed to Donald Trump’s big lie [that the 2020 election was stolen].”
“We’ve all seen just how dangerous the Republican Party’s war on women has been.”
– Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.)
Although House Republicans have proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare in past Congresses, save for restrictions on eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance, they did not seriously entertain benefit cuts for either social insurance program during their last period with unified control of the federal government, in 2017 and 2018.
Democrats instead hope to turn a proposal that Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, introduced in February into a liability for Scott’s colleagues in the House. Among other things, Scott’s plan, which has not been embraced by GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, would require all federal laws to be reauthorized every five years. That would turn Social Security and Medicare from mandatory budget items to perpetual targets of legislative wrangling.
The Democrats on Thursday’s call also glossed over elements of the “Commitment to America” that likely have more popular traction than the policies they singled out. Though the “Commitment to America” is vague on the details, it contains proposals to expand “school choice,” prohibit transgender females from competing in girls’ and women’s sports, beef up border security and crack down on progressive prosecutors.
House Democrats’ efforts to force Republicans to answer for their traditional economic agenda, the actions of a conservative Supreme Court they helped appoint and Trump’s election denial movement reflect what some Democratic pollsters are seeing as an effective one-two punch against the GOP.
There is a particular body of research backing up Democrats’ decision to associate conservative lawmakers with the term “MAGA,” an acronym for the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again.” In a new poll conducted by Hart Research for the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank, pollster Geoff Garin found that 58% of independent voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is identified as a “MAGA Republican,” compared with 12% who would be more likely to do so. A slim majority (51%) of all voters believe that “MAGA Republicans” are “extreme.”