Taking a Cue From Trump, House Republicans Offer Narrow Agenda

“A lot of this document can be summarized by saying, ‘Let’s delete the last seven months in our country,’ because Republicans were certainly, at least from an economic perspective, feeling bullish about their chances this year,” said Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Miami Republican who lost his House seat in the Democratic wave of 2018.

Michael Franc, a conservative policy analyst and former adviser to House Republican leaders, said the shift was part of a longer-term realignment by Republicans toward a more populist, working- and middle-class-focused party. He noted that the most specific proposals included in the agenda, like school choice, a child tax credit and increased funding for the police, appeared to be aimed at that group, while the ideas most popular with conservative intellectuals and elites, like entitlement reform, were downplayed.

“That is institutionalizing where some people have seen the party going, and it’s an acknowledgment that the days of talking about things like supply-side economics with voters are over,” he said.

The fact that Republicans in the House felt a need to produce their own platform at all, in a presidential election year when the top of the ticket typically sets the agenda, underscores the party’s unique predicament under Mr. Trump, a leader who has never been guided by much of a policy vision.

A handful of Republicans privately conceded that they were underwhelmed with the document. And despite the hoopla of Tuesday’s news conference, party leaders did not take any questions from reporters.

The presentation underscored how pessimistic Republicans have grown about their chances of retaking the House this year. It also reflected the changing nature of the party’s leadership on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Ryan was a self-declared policy wonk, who in 2016 insisted on putting out a lengthy set of proposals to balance the nation’s budget and pay for costly programs like Medicare or Social Security with draconian cuts. Mr. McCarthy has always leaned more toward politics than policy. He also watched as Mr. Ryan’s policy proposals were shredded by Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, in which he made deviation from Republican orthodoxy into a powerful selling point.

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