What a House GOP Majority Agenda Might Look Like

8 min

While recent polls suggest that Democrats have been closing the electoral gap in terms of House races, historical trends, favorable maps, and polling data show that Republicans are still poised to win enough seats in the November mid-term election to become the majority party in the House next year. However, the Senate remains a toss-up, with political experts seeing Democrats are slightly favored to keep the majority (at a minimum factoring-in Vice President Harris as the tie-breaker) in the "upper chamber."

If Republicans do take the House, the odds-on favorite to lead as Speaker is current House Republican Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), with current House Republican Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), as Majority Leader. The Whip position will be open, with the possibility of Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA) or Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) stepping in, who currently are Deputy Whip and NRCC Chairman, respectively. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) has already released a statement expressing her willingness to remain Conference Chair, but freshman Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) has also expressed interest in running for the position.

Leader McCarthy is aligning the political pieces for a potential Republican majority while working to maintain a cohesive economic message through the midterms. In creating Republican "task forces" to work in tandem with House committees, Leader McCarthy has been able to broaden the scope of House Republican Conference members invited to his leadership table. These task forces have' compiled key policy agenda items and circulated them to Republican Conference members, who tested the message with constituents throughout August to lay the groundwork for what Leader McCarthy is calling the "Commitment to America."

Like the "Contract for America" and "A Better Way," instituted by previous Republican Speakers, Leader McCarthy's agenda attempts to enhance transparency in the House and advance conservative policies that Republicans believe directly impact the day-to-day lives of middle-class voters. We expect "Commitment to America" to be rolled out on September 23. Below is a preview of the messaging associated with the initiative:

In advance of the November election, we expect Leader McCarthy to preview what a Republican majority will seek to do legislatively next year if it wins the majority by designating the top ten bills (i.e., H.R. 1-10) bills that he would seek to move in the first 100 days of the new congress. Many of the expected legislative items have already been written and highlighted by the Republican task forces, but certain changes and amendments likely will need to be made before any floor consideration. Below is the most up-to date messaging from the House Republican task forces, which include specific bills to be considered in 2023.

Healthy Future Task Force

Jobs & The Economy Task Force

Energy, Climate, and Conservation Task Force

American Security Task Force

Big Tech, Censorship, & Data Task Force

If Republicans win enough seats in November take the House in 2023, the 2022 lame-duck (post-election) session likely will be driven by the Senate and House Democrats. We should expect them to try and clear the deck before the end of the year, not only funding the government, but also extending specific expiring healthcare and tax provisions for a set period. Given the fact that many House Republicans likely will not vote to fund the Biden administration's policy agenda, an incoming Republican majority in 2023 would likely require Democratic votes to fund the government.

It should be noted that given the polarized nature of Congress, there is a high likelihood that, especially if the House Republicans are in the majority, there could be a temporary government shutdown. If the House Republican are in the majority, Republicans House Freedom Caucus members could force the hand of the incoming Speaker, mirroring the shutdown that occurred in 2013 under then-Speaker Boehner (R-OH). Funding associated with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill, to an extent, will continue to face strong opposition from House Republicans. Another point of contention that could lead to a legislative stalemate if the Republicans take the House majority is funding for new climate change initiatives passed in the IRA. Increased domestic energy production from fossil fuels is a critical component of the House Republican platform, and House Republicans very well could attempt to force the hand of the Biden administration to make concessions in order to avoid a shutdown.

Under Republican leadership, we would expect to see a more aggressive congressional calendar in 2023. Leader McCarthy has consistently criticized the number of days the House is out of session and likely will keep members in DC for additional weeks if he becomes Speaker. As in previous Republican majorities, we should expect "theme weeks" in the House. This is critical for House leadership to keep a broad coalition of members across the Republican spectrum messaging around a specific topic. Expect weeks designated to focus on domestic energy production, China accountability, parental rights, big tech censorship, border security, law enforcement and crime reduction, health care affordability, and inflation reduction.

On policy issues, if Republican win the majority, we could see Leader McCarthy enter policy debates ignored by other Republican leaders. For example, he may take on issues such as climate change by taking shots at a perceived "radical environmental" Biden administration, while supporting new carbon reduction technologies like carbon capture. Certain social issues such as abortion may remain politically fraught for Republican leaders, so we would expect Leader McCarthy to try and divert energy away from those issues and keep the focus on the economy and any perceived shortcomings of the current administration. Moreover, in a significant change from past GOP House majorities, we could see House Republican leaders taking oversight aim at businesses that, in their opinion, have placed too much value on environmental, social and governance issues that run counter to conservative principles.

While critical policy pieces are still being crafted, here is some of the legislative issues that House Republicans could look to move in 2023 if they are in the majority:

H.R. 19 – The Lower Costs, More Cures Act. While the prescription drug provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act will alter the specifics of this bill to an extent, the message surrounding H.R. 19 will be to enhance transparency in drug pricing, holding manufacturers accountable to patients, and protecting American innovation. Republicans will continue to focus on policy that encourages innovation of groundbreaking new cures, promotes more low-cost options for patients, and curbs perceived questionable business practices by certain actors.

Domestic Energy Production. This is the number one issue for many Republican members, including Rep. Scalise. Many House Republicans in energy producing states like Louisiana, Wyoming, and Texas view the environmental policies of the current administration as a direct assault on the livelihood of their constituencies. House Republican may challenge funding for the administration's clean energy initiatives, with Republicans believing the price of gas gives them public support to aggressively push a deregulatory policy agenda. Expect legislation that addresses drilling on federal lands, expediting any applications for permit to drill (APDs), streamlining the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), securing domestic exploration of critical minerals, and expanding the use of hydropower.

Parents Bill of Rights. Introduced in the current Congress, this bill contains numerous transparency and accountability provisions designed to increase parental involvement in schools. It's built on five core principles that would apply to all schools nationwide that receive federal funding.

  • Parents have the right to review their school's curriculum, reading materials, and state academic standards.
  • Parents have the right to lawfully engage with their local school board and educators.
  • Parents have the right to see a school's budget and spending, including detailed information about revenues and expenditures.
  • Parents have the right to protect their child's privacy.
  • Parents have the right to keep their child safe and to be updated on any violent activity at school.

Extending the Trump Tax Cuts. House Republicans will move to extend or make permanent certain tax credits included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Expect this to bolster the message that Republicans will reduce the economic burden on working families. It is important to note that many of the individual tax cuts will expire in 2025, giving Republicans an opportunity to stress the urgency in making these changes permanent to ease the burden on families.

This measure will not take away from a tax extender package at the end of the year, and with the R&D credit expiring for corporations, we should expect that piece to be extended before 2023.

Border Security. Given the continued influx of migrants at the border, expect Republicans to draft legislation that forces the hand of the administration to gain operational control of the border. Policies pertaining to the border will be focused on utilizing all available border security technology including finishing the wall, reinstituting the "Remain in Mexico" policy, and empowering law enforcement personnel.

Social Media Censorship. Conservative House Republicans will be on a mission to stop the perceived "big tech" censorship of conservative beliefs. We would expect the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on this subject and possibly move legislation through the committee on the matter. The Protect Speech Act, the only bill introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) this congress, modifies the immunity from liability of a provider or user of an interactive computer service (e.g., a social media company) for screening and blocking offensive content on its platform.

Venable's bipartisan Legislative and Government Affairs team maintains strong working relationships with leadership and rank-and-files members on both sides of the aisle and is well-positioned to assist clients regardless of electoral outcomes.