Republicans Debating 2010 Agenda

Stung by the "party of no" label, House Republicans are beginning to prepare a detailed GOP agenda for next year's congressional elections, focusing broadly on efforts to grow the economy, create jobs, and curb the reach of the federal government.

A formal unveiling will most likely wait until next summer or fall, when voters are more engaged in congressional races. Top Republicans caution that major decisions -- including how closely to model efforts on the famous "Contract with America" that Republicans rode to power in 1994 -- are still to come.

But the direction of the effort is beginning to become clearer. GOP leaders are promising to offer a formal alternative to the Democrats' health care bill, rather than let their opposition to a broader government role in health care stand by itself.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said House Republicans will eventually roll out "something like the contract," as they seek ways to present their case to an electorate that's shown signs of concern about full Democratic control of Washington.

"We are really thinking about what it is we would do if we were in control," Cantor, R-Va., told ABC News. "There will be an opportunity for us to proffer our alternatives. You're going to see us do that."

Republicans are already discussing ways to package those alternatives -- with the lessons of 1994's "Contract With America" in mind. That document was rolled out just six weeks before the election, encapsulating a vision endorsed by Newt Gingrich and his allies en route to a sweeping Election Day victory.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the chairman of the Conservative Republican Study Committee, said whether the GOP plans will be called a "contract" is among the major items of debate right now.

"That's the $64,000 question," Price said. "Obviously all of us want the most effective means of communication for that contrast [with Democrats]. Whether that takes the form of a list of specific bills, a list of principles, a list of items we'd accomplish -- all of those things are being discussed right now. I'm not wedded to any of them."

Cantor said the major planks Republicans are coalescing around -- the economy, jobs, and "Washington overreach" -- are areas that are "in [Republicans'] wheelhouse," and that particularly appeal to independent voters.

Asked about the debate inside the Republican Party over the special election in upstate New York next week -- where a series of prominent Republicans have endorsed the Conservative Party candidate because they don't consider the GOP nominee sufficiently conservative -- Cantor said Republicans need to learn Democrats' lesson from 2006 and pick candidates who can win in districts across the country.

"At the end of the day, we have to win control of this place," he said, echoing the argument Gingrich has made in standing by the Republican candidate in New York's 23rd congressional district. Former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., have joined a former Gingrich lieutenant, Dick Armey, in backing the Conservative Party nominee in that race.

The move to offer concrete proposals, rather than vague principles and outright opposition to President Obama's agenda, is an attempt by Republicans to blunt Democratic efforts to label them as the "party of no."

A series of Democrats took to the House floor as recently as Thursday to ask Republicans the rhetorical question: "Where's your bill?"

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