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Senate GOP to hide its legislative plans until after Election Day

A reporter asked Mitch McConnell what Republicans would do with power if it took control of Congress. "I'll let you know when we take it back," he replied.


New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told The Washington Examiner that he nearly launched a Republican Senate campaign, but changed direction after talking directly to incumbent GOP senators. "They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren't doing anything," the governor said.

Sununu added that virtually every Senate Republican he spoke to intended to do nothing but obstruct until the next Republican presidency. "It bothered me that they were OK with that," he said.

During his White House press conference yesterday, President Joe Biden literally read Sununu's quotes while highlighting the challenges of dealing with GOP lawmakers who too often don't care about governing. The Democrat added:

"I did not anticipate that there'd be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn't get anything done. Think about this: What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they're for."

The president had good timing. Not long before his press conference began, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fielded some questions from reporters, and NBC News' Leigh Ann Caldwell asked the Kentucky Republican what his party's policy agenda would be if the GOP takes back control of Congress.

"That is a very good question," McConnell responded. "And I'll let you know when we take it back."

On the surface, the answer didn't come as much of a surprise. Indeed, these comments come the month after Axios reported that McConnell "has told colleagues and donors Senate Republicans won't release a legislative agenda" before the 2022 midterm elections.

Predictable or not, this is far from ideal. We could have an election cycle in which Democrats and Republicans engaged in a battle of ideas and visions. It's what governing parties should want to do, in part to inform the electorate about what they consider important, and in part so that winning candidates can claim a popular mandate in the event of a victory.

What McConnell prefers is a model in which the Republican Party wins elections first, and considers sharing its agenda second.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, there are two larger angles to this that are worth keeping in mind. The first is that the Senate minority leader couldn't have answered yesterday's question earnestly, even if he wanted to: The Republican Party can't present a credible blueprint because it's a post-policy party that has no governing agenda.

In fact, as recently as 2020, the Republican Party didn't bother to create a national platform for the first time since 1854. The idea that McConnell would be prepared to unveil a meaningful plan two years later, after expressing effectively no interest in governing, is folly.

And second, if Republicans bundled together some of their vague policy preferences into some kind of 2022 agenda, it'd be filled with unpopular ideas that Democrats would gladly use against them. After all, what do contemporary GOP officials want? Tax breaks for the wealthy, weaker social-insurance programs that families depend on, weaker gun laws, and a systemic effort to roll back the clock on reproductive rights, voting rights, civil rights, and environmental protections.

It's a tough sell for a party that wants to win. No wonder reporters heard McConnell's glib response.