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Republicans have a ‘very first bill’ in mind (and it’s a mess)

If Republicans take the House majority, Kevin McCarthy knows exactly what the GOP’s first bill would be. The trouble is, it’s a misguided mess.


There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the fact that House Republicans are making legislative plans for the next Congress. It’s a little premature — there’s no guarantee that there will be a GOP majority — but in the abstract, it can be a good thing for a party leadership to think ahead and prepare to hit the ground running.

With this in mind, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has eagerly touted the first bill his party would tackle if it controls the chamber next year. Two months ago today, for example, the would-be speaker boasted that the GOP’s “number one” bill would protect Americans, make the nation energy independent, lower gas prices, reduce street crime, secure the border, and hold officials accountable.

To be sure, that would be an impressive piece of legislation. It’s also the sort of outlandish promise politicians make when they’re not even trying to be taken seriously.

Two months later, the California Republican appears to have narrowed his focus a bit. On Friday afternoon, while unveiling a profoundly flawed “Commitment to America” blueprint, McCarthy clarified what Americans can expect from the first proposal in a GOP-led House. Marketwatch reported:

House Republicans pledged to reverse the Biden administration’s hiring plans at the Internal Revenue Service on Friday, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy arguing that it’s their “job to work for you, not go after you.” ... “On that very first day that we’re sworn in, you’ll see that it all changes,” the California Republican said at an event in Monongahela, Pa. “Because on our very first bill, we’re going to repeal 87,000 IRS agents.”

Lest anyone think this was just an offhand comment that the minority leader didn’t really mean, the House Republican leadership pushed the same message via social media yesterday, declaring, “The first thing we will do when we earn back the House this November is to repeal the 87,000 IRS agents Joe Biden and House Democrats’ [sic] hired.

It’s tempting to give McCarthy credit for at least having something resembling an idea. Most of his “Commitment to America” amounts to little more than effectively telling voters, “Elect us and we’ll do good stuff.” This vow to “repeal 87,000 IRS agents” at least has the benefit of specificity.

But the temptation to give McCarthy some credit quickly fades when we stop to realize how blisteringly dumb this “very first bill” really is.

Right off the bat, as the House Republican leader surely knows, the Democratic policy in question didn’t hire 87,000 IRS agents. In reality, the IRS will be bolstered by new employees, but many of them will simply replace retiring workers, and many more will simply work in the building as IT technicians and folks who answer the phone. McCarthy can jump up and down, shouting about 87,000 IRS agents every day for the foreseeable future, but the repetition won’t make his lie any less wrong.

Just as notably, it’s curious to hear a GOP leader argue with such enthusiasm that Republicans, at their earliest possible opportunity, will push tens of thousands of Americans into unemployment.

As a political matter, it’s also probably worth mentioning that even if this is the party’s “very first bill” of the next Congress, President Joe Biden won’t sign it, so the promise is little more than hollow posturing.

But even if we put all of these relevant details aside — we shouldn’t, of course, but if we did for the sake of conversation — there’s a bigger picture to consider: According to McCarthy, the very first thing House Republicans want to do with power is, in effect, help criminals by defunding law enforcement.

After all, let’s not forget why Democrats prioritized IRS funding in the first place: The governing majority concluded that the government could collect more revenue without raising taxes by simply enforcing the laws already on the books. By making sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share, Uncle Sam could finance important priorities while leaving existing tax rates unchanged.

According to the House minority leader, Republicans would try to undo this the moment they have the chance — by defunding the tax police.