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EDITORIAL: Memo to House GOP: It’s all about the policy, stupid

The 118th Congress convenes Tuesday with each party holding a slim majority in one chamber. In the Senate, a Democratic coalition enjoys a 51-49 advantage. In the House, Republicans have a 222-212 edge.

The latter provides a much-needed check on President Joe Biden, who has blown out the budget in his first two years to appease progressives. Republicans have also telegraphed that they will use their majority in the lower chamber to launch investigations of their political opponents, in retribution for Democratic probes into the Trump administration.

Following the November election, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the likely next speaker, tweeted, “In just 47 days, House Republicans will have the gavel, and we will be prepared to hold the Biden administration accountable from day one. Our investigations are just getting started.”

But an incessant preoccupation with turning up dirt on the other side would be an error.

Post-election polling reveals that Republicans failed to capitalize on the president’s numerous missteps in part because they offered independent and moderate voters no clear alternative agenda. Launching investigations as a means of payback represents the kind of business-as-usual in Washington that warms the hearts of partisans but turns off many other Americans.

“For Republicans to be successful on the policy and political front,” John Tillman of the American Culture Project wrote in an op-ed for Fox News, “they must lead on the issues voters care about.”

He’s spot on. This is particularly important heading into a presidential election. House Republicans have the opportunity to offer voters a clear contrast to Democrats on a wide array of issues, including education, energy independence, spending and economic policy. There will be little chance that any such legislation will be signed into law. But Republicans can show voters they are serious about tackling issues that matter by proposing, debating and passing legislation with an eye on boosting a stagnant economy, easing prices, getting a handle on the soaring national debt and offering families increased choices when it comes to schooling.

Consider the 1994 Contract With America, which was instrumental in helping the GOP take control of the House that year for the first time in four decades. It was a comprehensive legislative agenda that appealed to Americans yearning for common-sense governance.

“The best way to ensure that 2024 is policy-focused rather than personality-driven, is to listen, sell and enact policy that improves the lives of most Americans,” Mr. Tillman notes. “Investigations are necessary, but they don’t change peoples’ lives for the better. Policy does.”

This is sound advice. House Republicans will be making a colossal mistake if they fail to take it.

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