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Republican Policy Committee faces tough task crafting 2022 agenda

The Republican Party hasn't had a policy agenda in many years. The chair of the Republican Policy Committee intends to change that. I wish him luck.

Republican Rep. Gary Palmer recently made headlines by seeking credit for the bipartisan infrastructure package in his Alabama district, failing to note that he voted against it.

But that's not the only notable thing about the GOP congressman. Palmer, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, is also the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. And as the conservative Washington Times reports, the Alabaman hopes to use this position to show voters that his party can offer governing solutions.

The Alabama Republican is chair of the House Republican Policy Committee, making him a point man for the GOP's issues conversations. It was a conversation the party lacked in the 2020 election, when President Trump ran a largely issue-less campaign, relying on his force of personality and asking voters to judge his record over the previous four years — and to leap at the chance to stick it to his naysayers.... Mr. Palmer seems intent on making sure Republicans have concrete ideas to take to voters next year, when Mr. Trump won't be on any ballots.

Well, that would certainly be a change of pace for a post-policy party that abandoned governing several years ago. (Insert obligatory link to my book here.)

To help bolster his point, Palmer, after complaining about Democratic leaders focusing on the climate crisis, suggested Republicans could present health care ideas that might resonate with voters.

"We're not taking away your health insurance," the GOP lawmaker said. "We're not taking away coverage for pre-existing conditions. What we are doing is going to be of benefit to you."

This, too, would be a change of pace. After all, as recently as a few years ago, congressional Republicans pushed legislation — which actually passed the House — that would've ended coverage for millions of families and punished those with pre-existing conditions. (Palmer was among those voting for it.) Eyeing health care reforms that "benefit" the public would be a welcome shift for the GOP.

Of course, for now, the shift remains theoretical: Republicans started promising to release a health care blueprint in 2009. It's nearly 2022 and we're still waiting. Similarly, Donald Trump spent his entire term assuring the public that the release of his reform plan was imminent. It still doesn't exist.

Maybe it's a new day. Perhaps the Republican Party, which didn't bother to create a national platform last year for the first time since 1854, will come up with meaningful, "concrete" ideas. Maybe GOP lawmakers who've expressed effectively no interest in governing in 2021, will unveil a robust policy blueprint in 2022.

But I'm skeptical, in part because the party long ago abandoned the pretense that substantive policy work matters, in part because other GOP leaders have explicitly rejected the idea of coming up with governing solutions, and in part because 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.

That said, I wish Palmer luck anyway.