Rea­gan21 cau­cus formed on Hill Em­pha­sis put on spend­ing, ethics

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Eric Pfeif­fer

Capi­tol Hill Repub­li­cans are in­vok­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan in their latest ef­fort to strengthen their party’s con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials, form­ing a new cau­cus whose mem­bers must pledge to sup­port lim­ited gov­ern­ment and to re­store ethics in Wash­ing­ton.

“We don’t want to go back to what Rea­gan did,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Repub­li­can. “We want to take those prin­ci­ples he stood for and go for­ward, ap­ply­ing them to the chal­lenges of to­day.”

Un­like most party groups, the Rea­gan21 cau­cus was formed by law­mak­ers them­selves dur­ing months of private meet­ings over din­ners and break­fasts, and with­out the as­sis­tance of con­gres­sional staff.

“As a party, we’ve been strong on so­cial is­sues,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can. “But on spend­ing is­sues, we’ve dropped the ball.”

The group also is some­what exclusive. Any mem­ber of the House and Se­nate is tech­ni­cally al­lowed to join the group, but, un­like sim­i­lar fis­cally con­ser­va­tive cau­cuses like the Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee (RSC), law­mak­ers’ mem­ber­ships

can be re­voked if they are not ac­tively pro­mot­ing the group’s agenda.

“If you don’t keep the com­mit­ments, you won’t be a part of it,” Mr. DeMint said.

“This is a group that can’t be bought off,” added Rep. John Camp­bell, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can.

How­ever, House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Repub­li­cans talk about fis­cal re­straint but don’t have the record to back it up.

“While Repub­li­cans claim to sup­port fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity, their ac­tions tell a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story,” the Mary­land Demo­crat said. “While Rea­gan in­creased the debt by $1.7 tril­lion in eight years, the 21st-cen­tury Rea­gan­ites have dou­bled that amount in just six years, adding $3.4 tril­lion to the debt.”

The of­fice of Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, de­clined to com­ment.

Along with Mr. DeMint, Rea­gan21 was formed by a small group of sim­i­larly-minded fis­cal and so­cial con­ser­va­tives. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is the Se­nate’s other lead­ing mem­ber, while the House mem- bership in­cludes Rep. Jeb Hen­sar­ling of Texas, the RSC chair­man; John Shadegg of Ari­zona; Mr. Camp­bell; Tom Price of Ge­or­gia; and Mr. Ryan.

“Amer­i­cans are dis­gusted by a Congress that is self-deal­ing and cor­rupt — that spends too much and un­der the con­trol of the new ma­jor­ity is mov­ing dra­mat­i­cally to the left,” Mr. Shadegg said.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner praised Rea­gan21.

“As I’ve of­ten said, our party is not in need of new prin­ci­ples; our prin­ci­ples have stood the test of time, and they will en­dure long af­ter the torch has been passed from to­day’s lead- ers to the next,” the Ohio Repub­li­can said. “But con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans are us­ing our time in the mi­nor­ity as an op­por­tu­nity to re­new our com­mit­ment to our prin­ci­ples.”

Al­though Mr. Boehner sup­ports the group, as party leader he does not for­mally join in­ter­party cau­cuses.

Mem­bers of the cau­cus said they hope to in­flu­ence fel­low law­mak­ers and vot­ers through their ac­tions, rather than rhetoric. “Most of what we do and say up here doesn’t make sense to peo­ple,” Mr. DeMint said.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the Rea­gan21 cau­cus at­tended their group’s first event last week — an anti-ear­mark pledge taken with the sup­port of such anti-tax or­ga­ni­za­tions as Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste.

Some polls have shown that ear­marks, spe­cial fund­ing re­quests at­tached to larger spend­ing bills, do not res­onate as a lead­ing is­sue with vot­ers.

But Mr. Hen­sar­ling and other Rea­gan21 mem­bers said that when they travel across the coun­try, ear­marks and other con­cerns about pork-bar­rel spend­ing are top con­cerns among their con­stituents.

“I don’t con­cede that,” Mr. Hen­sar­ling said of poll re­sults. “We spend more on ear­marks then on our en­tire vet­er­ans health care sys­tem.”

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