RNC Chairman: Can’t “Give Lip Service To The Base To Win A Primary” Then Ignore Them

RNC Chairman: Can’t “Give Lip Service To The Base To Win A Primary” Then Ignore Them

The Federalist interviewed Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on the agenda Republicans ought to present should they win the Senate.

The Federalist: You gave a pretty well-received speech recently, in terms of talking about the Republican agenda and what it has to offer the American people. There’s a general appreciation, I think, among some on the Right that there’s been somewhat of a leadership vacuum in Washington that basically the Republican Party, other than a few of the more recent elected officials—people like Mike Lee—there haven’t been people putting out a comprehensive agenda or things of that nature.

In a sense, do you feel you’re trying to get the band back together after a couple of fractured years?

Reince Priebus: I think that, in many ways, people want someone to lead. I actually think our leaders want someone to lead, too. I kind of figured that out over the last six months. I also know the key to what we did was communication. Communication with conservative groups, with, if you want to call them, establishment groups, leadership.

We did that and that’s why you saw when we unveiled the Constitution Plus Ten Principles project you had everyone from John Boehner to Ted Cruz to Tony Perkins, even a Tea Party Express put out an email for us which was fantastic. What it really was for me was a real, I knew people were appreciating what we were doing but when it happened I was a little floored, as well, by how much appreciation there was for something that is fairly … it was a lot of work but I’m sure it looked like it was simple to roll out.

The fact that there was so much universal appreciation for it verified again that this was a vacuum that needed to be filled. We had over 20 million hits on this thing. Now what we’re trying to do is make sure that we have, and you can see we’ve got the contract and the principles next to each other, is trying to now attach legislation and an agenda on the Hill to the principles that we set forth a couple weeks ago.

I think that’s clearly one piece that people see as a necessary piece. If there was a criticism that I heard about what we did, it wasn’t necessarily a criticism that you’re not doing enough. It was a critique that this is a great start, it’s great that you did it and thank you, but now we need to make sure that the agenda on the Hill is matching what you’re talking about. I think that’s legitimate completely.

The Federalist: If there’s a concern about that agenda I think that generally it’s that “well, we hear some people who might have been considered more close to the mainstream, more to the establishment or what have you, who are talking better now about certain aspects of the agenda or things like that… But what’s going to happen if they actually win the Senate? Is it going to be some lip service to things that the base wants and then back to same as usual?”

Reince Priebus: I don’t think so, because if you look at the work the House did, this ridiculous lie that the Republicans are just the party of ‘No, I didn’t do anything,’ when actually the Republicans are the only ones doing anything. We passed 350 bills and I know this seems like old, tired rhetoric, but it isn’t. There are 350 or 370 bills sitting on Harry Reid’s desk.

You can take some of that work, whether it be Keystone Pipeline or any of the other jobs bills that are on his desk, and you send them to the president. I think, number one, it gives you a voice. I think, number two, he’s got a couple of options on some very serious legislation that people want.

The Skills Act and some of these other things where he’s almost forced to sign some of it and if he doesn’t, then he gives us a narrative moving into 2016. Keystone Pipeline is a good example of something that he’s going to be in a real box on that issue because there’s part of the Democrat Party that claims they’re for it, the Mark Udall types who want to have their cake and eat it too but don’t actually do anything about it.

He’s going to be stuck. Passing budget parameters, you can do that without the president. You know that. How many Paul Ryan budgets are you going to pass that don’t go anywhere?

The Federalist: The constant tension there is “well, if we do the thing that K Street wants or that the corporations want then it might actually pass but if we do this other thing that the base wants, it may not pass and we’ll just be fighting.”

Reince Priebus: I don’t know about that…

The Federalist: Just to give one example: something like the medical-device tax versus the risk-corridor stuff when it comes to Obamacare. That’s an aspect of something you might be able to peel it off but you might not be able to win that other fight.

Do you think that it’s really important that when Republicans come here, if they take the Senate, that they definitely take some stands on fights that make it clear we’re not just going to be about passing things that Washington wants?

Reince Priebus:  I 100 percent agree. I think we also have to pass things that make good sense in the tax code but also we have to pass somethings that keep our party together that make sense. You can’t just give lip service to the base to win a primary and then get elected and only deal with things that may not be directed to that particular group of people that helped you get elected.

I’m completely in favor of making sure that our elected people get held accountable to not just the things that you just mentioned, but also the things that the base and the people that got them elected within our party had advocated for and that the candidates promised that they would do.

Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Sign up for a free trial of his daily newsletter, The Transom.
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