House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sat down with CNN on Sunday, and the California Republican was predictably optimistic, not only about his party’s chances in the midterm elections, but also about his chances of becoming Speaker of the House in the next Congress.
As for what McCarthy might do with the power he expects to receive, voters looking for meaningful answers about the most pressing issues were left wanting. From the CNN report:
[T]o bring down inflation and gas prices, he said they would reduce government spending and make America more energy independent, though he did not name specific bills.
What spending would the Republican leader cut? He hasn’t said. How much spending would he want to cut? He hasn’t said. Who’d be hurt by these cuts? He hasn’t said. What would McCarthy do to make us more energy independent? He hasn’t said. Does his plan involve doing things the Biden administration is already doing? Probably, but he hasn’t said.
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The ACLU’s Brian Tashman remarked yesterday, “Republicans went the whole ‘inflation election’ without once having to explain their policies to combat inflation.”
It’s an observation that’s both accurate and underappreciated. Given the importance of inflation — this one issue is likely to give Republicans control over at least one chamber on Capitol Hill, and quite likely both the House and Senate — common sense suggests the opposition party, eager to impress voters, would go out of their way to prove their credibility on the one thing so many Americans care most about.
And yet, McCarthy either would not or could not go into details about the GOP’s plan — because, for all intents and purposes, there is no such plan. Republicans aren’t telling Americans, “Vote for us and we’ll address inflation,” so much as the party is telling the electorate, “You’re upset about inflation, and we’re not in power, so you might as well give us a shot.”
It’s not just the House minority leader. Circling back to our earlier coverage, Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, was asked two weeks ago for details about his party’s plan to deal with inflation. The retiring Missouri senator had very little to offer, except to say Republicans would “stabilize the economy,” which was both vague and the opposite of what the party has promised to do.
He has plenty of company. In August, NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked Republican Rep. Andy Barr — the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee’s panel on monetary policy — the same question. “Let me ask you this: What is your plan to deal with inflation?” the “Meet the Press” host asked. “What is the Republican plan to deal with inflation — other than not supporting Joe Biden policies? ... What is the proactive agenda here?”
The GOP congressman responded, “Well, we have a positive agenda. We have a commitment to America, and we’re going to get back to basics.”
Barr then peddled a variety of hollow talking points, referencing illicit drugs, border security, a border wall, the terrorist watch list, the IRS, and oil drilling. Those waiting for the Kentucky congressman to get around to answering the question were left wanting.
Barr didn’t come right out and say his party doesn’t have a plan — that wouldn’t have been a politic answer — but he also left little doubt that his party doesn’t have a plan.
A few months earlier, Donald Trump was asked on Fox News what he’d do to address inflation if he were in the White House. He gave a long, meandering, and wildly dishonest answer, which didn’t even try to address the question.
It’s not as if the party hasn’t had time to think of something. NBC News reported a year ago, “[B]eyond blocking Biden’s wide-ranging social safety net and climate action plan ... how the GOP would tackle a notoriously difficult economic trend is less clear.” The report added that much of the GOP’s plan — to the extent that anyone can credibly call it a “plan” — would have “little effect or no effect in addressing the cause of increased costs or would not materially affect the economy for years.”
Eleven months later, a New York Times report added that Republicans have shared some ideas related to their economic intentions — the party, for example, is excited about regressive and unpopular tax breaks for the wealthy — but that “could actually make price pressures worse.”
Or put another way, in an election cycle defined largely by inflation, GOP officials and candidates haven’t said how they’d address the issue, except to unveil proposals that would likely make the problem worse.
In May, President Joe Biden insisted that Republicans “have no plan” to address inflation. As Election Day arrives, the party has proven him right.