[Editor's note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Wire.]
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By Philip Wegmann
Real Clear Wire
The opposition was stubborn. And President Biden, frustrated. So, he started the year with a simple question: “What are Republicans for? What are they for?” Biden asked reporters at a January press conference. “Name me one thing they are for.”
TRENDING: Collateral damage
Six weeks from the midterm elections, one answer comes from the Republican Study Committee. They have written a comprehensive policy memo, called the “Family Policy Agenda” and first obtained by RealClearPolitics, which includes over 80 specific recommendations that they will try to make law if the GOP wins control of Congress.
The stated goal: “restoring the American family.” The argument that the largest group of conservatives in the House is making on the eve of an election: “The GOP should become the party of families.”
This is not Chamber of Commerce-type Republicanism. The memo is the latest evidence of an ongoing turn on the right: Republicans don’t just tolerate social conservatives these days. They have embraced the culture war in pursuit of control of Congress and the White House.
The memo begins by blasting what Rep. Jim Banks, chairman of the RSC, describes as “radical gender theory.” To protect children, the top line of the document recommends penalties for both medical professionals and public schools. Proposed legislation would hold doctors civilly liable for injuries incurred during gender transition surgery and withhold taxpayer dollars to any public school that goes along with gender transition without the parental consent of parents.
The conservatives call upon Congress to consider whether or not to pull funds from public schools “that fail to receive parental consent before referring to a child by a different name or pronoun.” They should consider also, the memo states, making explicit in law the definition of “what a woman is,” a reference to the viral moment when Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson declined to define the word during her Senate confirmation hearing.
When asked about critical race theory one year ago, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe replied during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin said the opposite, then hammered the Democrat incessantly all the way to Election Day and victory. Release of the RSC memo coincides with the anniversary of that McAuliffe gaffe, and CRT features prominently.
The conservatives call for rooting out from classrooms, by withholding taxpayer funding, any teaching “that race is all that matters, categorizing children as either victims or privileged racists depending upon the color of their skin.”
And while Republicans have grown comfortable railing against public schools, notably school closures during the pandemic and what they see as overly progressive lesson plans, House Republicans insist that “we shouldn’t stop at education.” Instead, the bottom line of the memo is that the GOP should think family first “on every policy front.”
That is what voters want, insists Terry Schilling, the president of American Principles Project, one of more than a dozen social conservative organizations who have come out in support of the RSC memo, “a commitment to not only opposing the Democrats' radical anti-family extremism on issues like abortion and gender ideology, but also promoting a positive vision for the good.”
An expansive vision of the good means, among other things, requiring social media companies to obtain verified consent from parents before letting minors create online accounts. It also calls for reforming the foster care system, enacting universal savings accounts, rejecting universal basic income proposals, revoking the federal charter of the National Education Association, rewriting the tax code to remove what conservatives see as an inherent marriage tax penalty, and reimaging the workplace itself.
For instance, the RSC suggests overhauling current overtime rules with the flexibility of parents in mind. Out with federal overtime rules structured around the traditional 40-hour work week. In with an alternative 80-hour two-week framework to determine when employees get paid time-and-a-half. “This,” the document insists, “would allow an individual to choose to work more hours in one week and less in the following week.”
Meanwhile, according to the memo, there ought to be a federal review of professional licensing laws to see which regulations actually protect consumers and which protect monopolies. Also, reimagining the labor union itself. Conservatives view the old labor vs. capital binary as a constrained way to view U.S. labor relations. Instead of the traditional “union structure,” the paper says, there ought to be “employer and employee working groups to discuss workplace issues.”
The memo is comprehensive House Republicans say, because the threats to the family are so vast. “American families are in trouble,” it states. “Divorce rates remain too high, more Americans are postponing marriage or forgoing it entirely, birth rates have plummeted, too many children are being raised without fathers, and many two-parent homes are struggling to make ends meet.”
House Republicans aren’t alone. More than a dozen outside organizations, a mix of academics and interest groups and grassroots organizations, endorsed the grab bag plan.
“We need to put power and resources in the hands of parents so that they can make decisions that are best for their children,” said Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women's Forum.
The White House sees family as “expendable,” claimed Craig DeRoche of the Family Policy Alliance, while “at the RSC, families get their portrait on the mantel, an invitation to Sunday dinner, and a place to call home.”
According to Brad Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies, the family policy agenda “from Rep. Jim Banks’ RSC is one more sign that the Republican Party is moving to become the parents’ party for America.”
Good policy, as the conservative wing of the GOP sees it, means good political outcomes. “If Republicans can contrast our efforts with Democrats’ record of intrusion and control,” Banks told RCP, “then I think parents will play a pivotal role in 2022 and 2024.”
While the White House still asks what the GOP stands for, Banks and RSC have come to their own conclusion: “The Biden presidency has failed America’s families.”
“Next Congress we need to focus on reforming the tax code to create more families, passing pro-life legislation, protecting parents’ pocketbooks, and giving them back control over their kids’ education. All these policies are popular and proven,” he concluded, “and we’ve seen the difference parents can make on election day.”
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