Interview with Jack Kingston’s Office
I spoke this morning with a spokesman for Rep. Jack Kingston, the vice-chairman of the House Republican Conference, to discuss my concerns about the American Renewal Project and some other major issues.
He passed my concerns about much of the Project being a warmed over version of unfulfilled parts of the Contract with America on to his boss. Kingston argues that these are “not leftovers from Contract with America” but rather “an agenda for getting America back on track.” I noted that major points of the Project–fiscal accountability, simpler taxes, and strenghening our security–were in the Contract and that the GOP had had control of the House for a decade. The spokesman argued that these things were all done to varying degrees and that Kingston proposes going further.
He notes that Kingston was a protÃƒ©gÃƒ© of Newt Gingrich, who recruited him to party office and to run for Congress, going back to the days when they were both in Young Republicans. Kingston has modeled himself in some ways after Gingrich. He formed and is chairman of the “Theme Team,” a group of 85 House Republicans that meet weekly to refocus their message and listen to guest speakers for ideas. Kingston has, since 1992, had a “contract” that he keeps a giant copy of reminding him of his promises to his constituents and his larger strategic vision.
Asked whether we could expect to see a floor vote on legislation carrying out Kingston’s project this term, the spokesman said it was “too early to say,” since this is just in proposal stage. However, Kingston recently circulated an earlier version of this to the Theme Team to great enthusiasm.
In order to get things passed, Kingston believes he needs outside pressure from base including blogs and talk radio. He needs help mobilizing conservatives to “hammer on Congress” to pass this agenda. Ultimately, Congressmen need to hear from their constituents and they presume they’re on the right track unless they hear otherwise.
As to the race for majority leader, Kingston is supporting Majority Whip Roy Blunt’s candidacy. He believes “we [the Republican caucus] need conductor to get trains running quickly” and than Blunt brings “a record of accomplishment in leadership.” Asked whether having someone so tainted with the Abramoff scandal would not assure that Nancy Pelosi would be Majority Leader come next January, the spokesman argued that “Blunt has already been vetted by the Capitol Hill media corps.”
He believes the blogosphere and the conservative pundits in general are over reacting to the charges against Blunt, noting that “everything” Blunt has done has been “within the confines of the law.” The fact of life in big time politics is that “people throw money at you” when “you’re a rising star.” He claims that Blunt has not sought out Indian gaming money or otherwise participated in the excesses of the K Street Project and that he has paid for his own golf trips and meals.
Further, Blunt’s opponents have it easier because they’re speaking from outside the leadership. Saying you’re going to get something done is much easier than doing it. He notes that the recent budget deal, which “cut spending one percent across the board,” was “passed by a single vote.” Not only does that mean it was the best conservatives could have hoped for–“one penny more in cuts” would have killed it–but it is a testament to Blunt’s skills as Whip.
While ideology is important, the Leadership “needs to be willing to work with every member of the party to get things done for America.”
Ultimately, he is “hopeful that blogsophere will be happy that whoever we get in there will be a great conservative.”
Update: Hotline on Call had the same reaction I did to the Project’s rollout, dubbing it “a — dare we say it — Contract With America-like agenda for GOPers to drive legislation with in ’06 and a guide for winning nationalized midterm contests in November.”