Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander on Friday called for Republicans to answer questions about what the party stands for with an incremental agenda that focuses on jobs, debt and terrorism.
And, in a speech at the conservative Hudson Institute, the Tennessee senator cautioned against expanding the conservative agenda beyond the core issues of spending and debt that he said "fired up" voters in November's mid-term elections.
"My hope is that at this time," Alexander said, "we keep our eye on the goals that matter most - making it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs, reduce spending closer to revenues and dealing in a tough, strategic way with terrorism."
The Republicans' agenda going forward should beat back what he characterized as Democrats' program of "taking big bites of several big apples and trying to swallow them at the same time."
To that end, he advocated a list of 10 "steps" that ranged from not raising taxes "on anybody" and reducing the corporate tax rate, to repealing the new consumer protection agency and creating "the environment for 100 new nuclear power plants."
A similar approach, he said, should be taken in "making annual spending come as close to revenues as soon as possible."
His seven "immediate" steps include: a two-year earmark ban, giving the government's General Motors stock to every American who paid federal income takes in April, and capping discretionary federal spending.
He also called for repealing the health care legislation and replacing it with a "step-by-step approach of reducing health care costs," though he provided no detail.
Alexander said that he's tempted to hang in a GOP meeting room at the Capitol photos of outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Rep. Henry Waxman as symbols of "what the federal government has done wrong during the last two years."
But, he cautioned, Republicans also have to re-earn the trust of the American people.
"If the Republican Party aspires to be a governing party rather than merely an ideological debating society," he said, "'what are Republican for?' Still is a question that must be answered."
The liberal Center for American Progress was quick to jump on at least one aspect of Alexander's proposed GOP agenda.
His suggestion to move on building 100 new nuclear power plants would "create fewer jobs relative to its huge cost, add billions of dollars to the deficit, and increase the risk of terrorists getting radioactive material," said the center's Daniel Weiss and Richard Caperton.