House GOP Leaders Must 'Walk the Walk,' Conservatives Say

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - As Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives prepare to choose officers on Nov. 17 for the next two years, analysts said GOP lawmakers needed leaders who would not just "talk the talk," but also "walk the walk" regarding conservative values and principles.

"Virtually every member who's running for a leadership post has issued a press release talking about how 'we lost our way' and 'we need to move back,'" said Dani Doane, director of congressional relations for the Heritage Foundation, on Thursday.

"But there's a difference between just saying we need to return to conservative principles and actually espousing the ideas behind them," she told Cybercast News Service. "Just giving lip service to conservative principles without really understanding what they are really isn't going to cut it."

The battle over GOP leadership in the House began Wednesday, when Rep. Dennis Hastert - the longest-serving Republican Speaker - released a statement noting that "the Republican leader in the 110th Congress will have the responsibility to emphasize conservative values and reform principles."

"I will not seek this role, but will support our leader to the best of my ability," the Illinois Republican said.

That same day, Rep. John Boehner - who has served as majority leader since replacing embattled Tom DeLay nine months ago - sent a letter to his colleagues asking them to support his bid to remain the top Republican in the House.

In his letter, the Ohio congressman promised "another long run of Republican majority control, driven by dedication to our principles, a steady stream of new, powerful ideas and commitment to working together as a team for our party and our country."

Boehner said that under his leadership, House Republicans would confront the lessons learned from Tuesday's losses "head-on" by "renewing our commitment to the principles that brought us to the majority in 1994."

Those efforts would include "articulating a powerful and positive vision for the future based on those principles, and joining together as a team toward the common goal of a smaller, more accountable federal government that respects personal freedom and responsibility."

Also Wednesday, Rep. Mike Pence announced his candidacy for Republican leader "because I believe that we did not just lose our majority - we lost our way."

Like Boehner, the Indiana congressman and chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee pointed back to the "Contract with America" that helped propel the GOP to majority status in Congress.

"After 1994, we were a majority committed to a balanced federal budget, entitlement reform and the principles of a limited federal government," Pence noted. "We delivered on balanced federal budgets, welfare reform and responded to a national emergency with defense spending, homeland security and tax cuts that put our economy back on its feet.

"Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision," he added. "I say the American people did not quit on the Contract with America; we did. In so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters."

The Contract with America also featured prominently in Rep. John Shadegg's announcement that he is seeking the post of minority whip, the second-highest position in the GOP's House leadership.

"Unfortunately, over time, Republicans stopped acting like Republicans, and we ceded our reform-minded principles in exchange for a seemingly tighter grip on power," the Arizona congressman said in a statement.

"I have no doubt that we can reclaim our rightful place as the governing party of reform and individual empowerment," he added. "But we must begin with a renewed vision."

Shadegg's opponent for the post is Rep. Roy Blunt, the current majority whip, who invoked conservative values in a statement of his own on Wednesday.

"We must seize this opportunity to reaffirm our conservative principles, return to Republican unity and restore faith in the American people in our agenda and ability to tackle the tough issues on their behalf," the Missouri congressman noted.

"The whip will be an integral part of the effort to secure a Republican majority in 2008, and I look forward to fighting that daily fight on behalf of the conservative cause and the American people," he added.

As Cybercast News Service reported earlier, the leaders of several conservative organizations said Wednesday that the midterm election results may have been a loss for the GOP, but it was "emphatically not a loss for conservatives."

Doane agreed, though she added that the election result would be one of many factors that would determine who will lead the GOP in the House for the next two years.

House Republicans are "going to have a lot of introspection on Tuesday's election, but I think they also need to have a lot of 'extrospection' - in other words, looking outside themselves at what's happening nationally," she said.

"I've seen a lot of Republicans trying to justify what happened by parsing it out by saying, 'This race was a scandal race' or 'This guy did that wrong,'" Doane noted.

Those officials, she said, were "ignoring what was glaringly obvious to a lot of us, which was that this was a national feeling that things were going wrong, and people want them to go right."

While Doane would not speculate on who was likely to win the House GOP leadership posts, she dismissed the current talk of bipartisanship in Washington as "a load of hooey."

Noting the close proportion of Democrats to Republicans in both chambers, she predicted that the new Congress would generate "a lot of heat, but very little light."

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