GOP House Leaders Elise Stefanik and Steve Scalise Outline Agenda

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—Republicans say they have a plan to address the biggest problems facing our country, problems they say the left created.  

“We are seeing the results of unified far-left Democrat government and how that’s caused an inflation crisis, an energy crisis with the highest prices at the pump in our nation’s history, … [and] a national security crisis with a Russia rising and invading Ukraine,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, chair of the House Republican Conference, told The Daily Signal at the 2022 House Republican Issues Conference.

House Republicans gathered last week in Jacksonville to discuss their annual retreat. 

Joining “The Daily Signal Podcast” from the retreat are Stefanik, the House’s No. 3 Republican, Minority Whip Steve Scalise R-La., and the No. 2 Republican. They discuss GOP solutions to the southern border crisis, lower inflation and stop the crime spike within American cities.  

Listen to both interviews on today’s podcast or read the lightly edited transcripts below: 

Virginia Allen: I am so happy to be joined today by Elise Stefanik (New York), the chair of the House Republican Conference. Congresswoman, thank your so much for being with us.

Rep. Elise Stefanik says: It’s great to be here. We are in Florida for the annual House Republican working trip. And I’m excited to talk about that.

Allen: Yeah. Well, speaking of the retreat, we’re looking toward the future. What will their priorities look like if Republicans take back the House?

Stefanik, We have so much to do. First, I think it’s important, let’s talk about why we are here in terms of the crises across America.

We are seeing the results of unified far-left Democrat government and how that’s caused an inflation crisis; an energy crisis with the highest prices at the pump in our nation’s history; we have a national security crisis with a Russia rising and invading Ukraine, which is an important national security partner for the United States of America; and we have crime continuing to skyrocket across the country and an open border.

House Republicans still have a lot of work ahead of them. And we’re committed to doing that.

What we’re focused on at the retreat is developing our agenda, our “Commitment to America,” on how we’re going to govern on Day One. These are some of the issues I want you to discuss.

Inflation. We need to rein in the reckless, out-of-control trillions of dollars of spending that we’ve seen under Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, one-party authoritarian rule, because it’s impacting everyday Americans’ wallets and their ability to balance their budgets.

Even Democratic economists such as Larry Summers warned of the detrimental results if they pass their multitrillion-dollar bill, which we’ve now seen: Inflation has skyrocketed. It’s the highest rate in over 40 years.

Energy, we need to unlock American energy independence. That means moving in the opposite direction from [President Joe] Biden’s administration, who wants to pass the buck and also wants to import energy from dictators around the world.

There is so much potential and so many natural resources. My district has suffered from the impact of my district’s poor economic situation.

Secure your border. A nation cannot exist without a secure border. So we have a lot of work to do there, and we’re prepared to do that work on Day One.

And then there’s crime. We must stand by our law enforcement officers and support the rule of laws.

So it’s a long list and there’s even more that I could go into, but I’m sure we’re going to cover it in our chat.

Allen: Absolutely. Allen: Absolutely.

Stefanik: Absolutely. We’ve had members developing legislation all year and, actually, since this term of Congress started and that’s part of this process of Commitment to America. We’re hearing from members today and tomorrow about their legislative bills that they’ve proposed, about their plans [on]How to ensure accountability and oversight. So I anticipate we’ll have bills to announce later on this spring.

Allen: We’ve seen a distinct lack of, really, accountability of the Biden administration in the past two years. How will Republicans empower members to make up the two years of virtually no oversight?

Stefanik: It’s a great question and it’s a really important question. Congress is the voice for the people. We have the constitutional responsibility of not only appropriating federal dollars but also overseeing every federal agency.

And what’s interesting about House Democrats is they have eliminated—on every single committee, there used to be an oversight subcommittee. They’ve eliminated those. And it’s all on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

We’re going to bring back the oversight committee on every single committee in Congress. So that means the Homeland Security Committee, they’re going to have an oversight subcommittee. Why is that important? It means that there’s going to be members that are focused day in, day out on that oversight.

If the Biden administration fails to comply with our requests we will not hesitate subpoena them. I’ve been on record stating such. And I think it’s important to demand that accountability and transparency for the American people.

That’s one of the focuses tomorrow of the retreat, is helping prepare our members who have not been in a Republican majority before. We want them to be able conduct fast, effective, and accountable oversight as we work to earn this majority.

Allen: One of these key issues that Republicans are focused on that we’re talking about here at the Issues Conference is that of Big Tech and really holding Big Tech accountable. Recent news has shown that Twitter suspended The Babylon Bee for tweeting about it. [transgender Department of Health and Human Services official] Rachel Levine, who they said was “Man of the Year.” Do you think that the House should be tackling censorship for these Big Tech companies, should be tackling this issue?

Stefanik: Absolutely. This is why Big Tech is one of the pillars of our Commitment to America. [Rep.] Cathy McMorris Rodgers is leading that effort, not only scraping Section 230, but protecting Americans’ privacy, but also going after bad cyber actors.

For example, you see kids across America, good kids, that are purchasing drugs on TikTok, on Instagram, and they’re laced with fentanyl. These kids are dying, and we must hold Big Tech responsible. Concerning censorship, I have been personally censored as have many Republicans.

The Babylon Bee, it’s just ridiculous that they were censored. Shame on Twitter. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise. It is important that tech companies fully understand the Constitution and freedom of speech.

Allen: Excellent. We are witnessing a mass exodus of people from cities as crime increases in America. This has serious implications. What is Republicans’ plan to tackle rising crime?

Stefanik: No. Stand with law enforcement There are results to “defund the police” policies and rhetoric. My home state of New York is the best place to start.

Democrats and far-left Democrat socialists reduced the NYPD budget by almost one-sixth. The crime rate has increased, and the number of officers killed in law enforcement incidents last year and this years continues to rise. This is not American. We must stand strong with law enforcement.

These are also important to tackle [district attorneys]Who refuse to prosecute crimes. Only law and order can make society work. A secure border is also a part of this. You need to have a secure border to deal with a fentanyl crisis when that’s the leading cause of death for those aged 18- to 45-year-old adults.

We have many plans for the American security and criminal task force.

Allen: Excellent. And you also mentioned inflation. It is high. What are the key goals of Republicans to control inflation?

Stefanik : Well, we all know an economist. Both liberal and conservative economists, as well as those who served in far-left administrations like Barack Obama, have said that there will be consequences to the reckless trillions dollars of historic spending under Speaker Pelosi.

American families are paying the price. They’re paying the price at the grocery store, they’re paying the price every single day, utility bills, you name it, used cars. I mean, it’s skyrocketing and people are having to make really, really tough choices.

I saw a headline recently about how seniors who are on limited income already … their purchasing power has gone down so much because of inflation. They’re having to make the tough decision between how many hot showers do I take? Or how often should I eat meat? It is not American.

And I’m 37 years old. This is why my generation has not experienced such high inflation. It’s 4% is what we’ve experienced, now at 7.9%. It’s almost double. We must reduce that spending and return to sound fiscal policies.

Allen: Congresswoman. Before we let you go quickly, I want your thoughts on Ketanji Jackson. Do you think she’s qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and do you have thoughts on her saying that she couldn’t define what a woman is because she’s not a biologist?

Stefanik : Well, you know and I know that you and me are both women, and we are proud to have been women. That’s a pretty ridiculous and I think it’s an unacceptable answer for a Supreme Court judge.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg would’ve been able to answer that question. Ruth Bader Ginsburg understands how to define, would’ve understood how to define that issue.

So I have some questions. [Jackson’s] qualifications. I also have questions about her soft-on crime sentencing record. And there’s not full transparency. I stand with the Republican senators, who have requested additional 48,000 documents from her time at the [U.S.] Sentencing Commission. And we deserve transparency when it’s the highest court in the land.

I think the Republican senators have done a very good job asking issue-specific questions, and we’ll see.

Allen: Congresswoman! Thank you so much for taking the time to respond.

Stefanik: Thank you.

The Daily Signal also spoke with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana at the House Republican Issues Conference about GOP solutions to America’s biggest issues. Here is the transcript from the interview.

Virginia Allen: It is a pleasure to be joined by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Thank you, Congressman, for being here.

Rep. Steve Scalise: It’s great to be with you. Thank you for having me.

Allen: So, we’re here at the 2022 House GOP Issues Conference where Republican lawmakers are gathered to talk about the problems and the solutions to fix those problems that are facing America right now. What will your top priorities be if Republicans win the House?

Scalise: You’re going to see a real exciting, bold, conservative agenda to address all these crises we’re seeing. Inflation is still the main issue. High gas prices, there’s no reason for it. We know what can be done to lower gas prices. President [Joe]Biden and Speaker [Nancy]Pelosi are wrong on this. They’re on the wrong side of all of these issues.

We’re going to address how to secure America’s border, how to roll out a robust foreign policy—you look at debacles from Afghanistan to what [Russian President Vladimir]Putin’s actions in Ukraine And I think it’s important to show the country what a bold conservative agenda would look like.

We had [former House Speaker]Last night, Newt Gingrich met with us. We’ve been talking with Newt a lot. Obviously, when he developed the “Contract with America,” I think it galvanized a lot of excitement around the country at a time when very few people thought they could win a House majority, because it had been over 40 years.

This time around I think there’s a different attitude around the country. They’re angry about the direction of the country that Joe Biden and Pelosi have taken. And I think they’ve never been more hungry than now to see what that bold conservative agenda would look like. And we’ll be rolling out what we call a “Commitment to America” later on this summer that’ll address all of these issues that I’m talking about here.

Allen: Are there pieces of legislation that Republicans will prioritize for early 2023?

Scalise: Yeah. And I think this is something that’s real important. If we’re fortunate enough to win the majority in November, we’re ready to go in January. We’re not going to be wondering what to do then, we’re going to have the country engaged in this.

And that’s why rolling out this commitment’s important, not just to show people what we would do differently than what Biden and Pelosi are doing, but then also you’ve got real specific things that—we have a mandate to go do and write out the box in January.

Let’s start moving bills that will lower gas prices, that’ll make our country energy-dependent again, which we used to be, take leverage away from people like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. And not just him, but Biden’s begging dictators all around the world. If it’s not Putin, it’s over in Iran or in Venezuela.

Stop asking dictators to supply America’s energy. America can supply not only our energy, but our friends’ around the world, too. And that’s the kind of stuff you’re going to see us roll out.

We will have a bill regarding border security. We’ll have a bill to address a lot of these challenges and crises that people are facing right now, including school choice, a parental bill of rights.

I mean, this is something that’s popped up a lot. It was evident in Virginia, where people go to their local school boards. And I’m really excited to see how engaged people are in education at the local level, but they also want to see more ability at the federal level to have a role in their kids’ education. It is important to be able see curriculums.

But I’ve always been a school choice advocate. When I was in Louisiana Legislature, I pushed for it hard. We completely reformed New Orleans’ public schools system and created a charter school system that allowed you to hire and fire people on merit. The kids won. Because parents had real choices, the kids benefited.

I think when you see all these shutdowns where they’re keeping kids out of school and making them wear masks and the unions don’t want to go to work, but the kids want to be in school, and these Democrat leaders that are siding with the unions against the kids, that’s got to change. We’ve got to get parents and kids back involved and open up the classrooms and give real options to parents, too.

Allen: I would like to dive deeper into some issues that you raised in a matter of minutes, but first, let me ask you about oversight. We’ve seen a real lack of Congress holding the Biden administration accountable recently. How can Republicans really empower members to make up two years of no oversight?

Scalise: This is something that a House majority will confront Day One. We’ve got committees. Every committee that has jurisdiction on issues has an oversight section. And then, of course, there’s an overarching oversight committee. These committees will be very busy and will bring people in.

Look, we haven’t even had a hearing on the origins of COVID. Any scientist you talk to that’s honest with you is going to tell you it probably started in that lab in Wuhan. It wasn’t some bat biting a cat and human in a wet market. It was about whether America was involved in the gain-of function research at the Wuhan laboratory. It was most likely an accidental or deliberate result of experiments that were being conducted at the Wuhan laboratory.

Why shouldn’t we have hearings about it? Pelosi won’t have them. These kinds of hearings will be held.

Look at all the millions of people that have come across our border illegally in the last year and a half under Joe Biden, where he’s basically allowed the drug cartels of Mexico to have operational control of our border. You can’t even find out today how many people have come across, let alone where they’ve been sent.

Governors can be questioned. Governors can’t even tell you how many people have been sent into their states who are here illegally. We’re going to be able to get those answers.

What about the $85 billion of the world’s best military technology that Biden gave to a terrorist organization when he pulled out and left thousands of Americans behind enemy lines in Afghanistan? The C-130s, night vision glasses, and military equipment that were donated by Biden. [Ukrainian President Volodymyr]Zelenskyy would be thrilled to have.

If Zelenskyy had just half of what Biden gave to the Taliban, he’d be able to defend himself so much better against Putin. And yet we haven’t been able to get an accounting of that. We will be able to ask those questions and get those answers in the majority, because we’ll have subpoena power.

So yeah, I think you’re going to be tuning into TV a whole lot watching these hearings, because people all across the country are asking these questions and they’re saying, “Why won’t Pelosi do anything about it?”

Well, you know what, if you’ve got a leader that won’t do anything about it, fire that leader. We’re going to fire Pelosi and we’re going to have those hearings and get those answers, doing a lot of robust oversight of the Biden administration in a Republican majority.

Allen: I know that one of your key issues is Big Tech and Big Tech Censorship. This is something that really affects conservatives. It’s something that at The Daily Signal and The Heritage Foundation we’ve been affected by.

You tweeted recently regarding the revelation that emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop were verified by The New York Times. And you said, “The New York Post was right. Big Tech was complicit in a cover up to help Joe Biden win. They need to be held accountable.”

Is the House able to hold Big Tech accountable? If so, what would that look like?

Scalise: Absolutely. When people abuse their powers—and Section 230 of the law gives any technology company the ability to not be sued if they’re a marketplace of freedom of speech. Many of these Big Tech companies have turned a blind eye to free speech and have chosen discrimination to suppress views of those they disagree. We saw this in the Hunter Biden laptop story.

When I was on the committee, Jack Dorsey was with us. [the House] Energy and Commerce [Committee] a few months ago, back when Dorsey was still the head of Twitter, he’s not anymore. I asked him about the fact that they not only shut down the story on Hunter Biden but also shut down the entire Twitter account of New York Post.

This newspaper is more than 230 years old. And they basically said, “We’re going to shut down the New York Post because we don’t like the story they’re putting out.” And it turned out all to be true. And I said, “Do you regret that decision?” He actually said under oath that he made a mistake and that he regretted it. The New York Post had that headline up on their website as we were speaking.

But it just goes to show you they’ve got to be held accountable like anybody else. If you’re going to hold a public trust and a tech company who’s hiding behind a government protection like Section 230, if they’re going to abuse that protection, then they’re going to be held accountable.

In fact, [Reps.] Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jim Jordan have been working on legislation to make changes to Section 230 to take those protections away from Big Tech, because they haven’t been the marketplace of free speech and we need more town squares. We need more opportunities.

Look, if you’re afraid of somebody else’s ideas, maybe you just have the wrong ideas yourself. You should be able and willing to stand up for what you believe in, and you should encourage others to think differently. Yes, I want everyone to agree with me. That’s not what America’s about. There are people who think differently. We should encourage people to think differently, and not try to suppress it like some in Big Tech.

Allen: I’d like to know your thoughts on Ketanji brown Jackson. Have you been following the Senate confirmation hearing for her?

Scalise: I did a little bit. There’s definitely been some things she’s been asked that I have been alarmed about her answers. Not surprising that Joe Biden would pick somebody that’s got a far-left viewpoint. But let’s not forget President [Donald] Trump’s three appointees, they were phenomenal picks for the Supreme Court. You can see the dishonesty and unfair treatment they received.

At least now you’re seeing very valid questions being brought forward. I mean, it’s a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. These are fair questions that you should answer about your views on issues.

Allen: Excellent. Thank you, Congressman, for taking the time to speak today. It is greatly appreciated.

Scalise, I am grateful to be with you. Thanks a lot.

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