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GOP Plans Legislation Blitz in Statehouses and US Congress

Economy, environment, and image control top agendas in red states and Senate

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) delivered the Republican's first address of the new year on Saturday. (Photo: Transportation for America/flickr/cc)

Republicans are getting ready to introduce a wide swath of new legislation at both the state and federal level in the aftermath of last year's midterm sweep, according to new reports.

With both houses of Congress now under GOP control for the first time in President Barack Obama's time in office, Republicans are planning to focus on the economy—but equally important will be controlling their public image, a strategy which was hinted at in the party's first address of the new year on Saturday.

"GOP leaders will focus on bolstering the economy and cutting the budget — and oh yes, avoiding self-inflicted calamities that make voters wonder if the party can govern competently," the Associated Press writes.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois), who delivered the address, promised a "new start on the people's business." Yet despite promises of collaboration with Democrats, Davis made clear who would deserve credit in the event of any successful economic legislation, such as the upcoming jobs bill he said "will have bipartisan support but were never considered by a Democrat-run Senate."

Davis noted a proposed bill called the Hire More Heroes Act, which Republicans say would incentivize businesses to employ veterans by excluding those who receive VA coverage from the worker insurance mandate in President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law. The bill, which Davis introduced, passed in the House last year but stalled in the Senate.

In addition to healthcare and the economy, Republican leaders are addressing the negative attention their party's dramatic tactics have accumulated over the years, promising to lead without "government shutdowns and other chaotic standoffs," as the AP describes.

The AP continues:

Another priority is minimizing distractions like the recent admission by No. 3 House leader Steve Scalise, R-La., that he addressed a white supremacist group in 2002.

"Serious adults are in charge here and we intend to make progress," incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told The Associated Press recently.


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Yet despite those promises, the first bill set to be introduced into the Republican's Congress is the Keystone XL pipeline, which has little bipartisan support and has been the cause of much contentious debate. Republicans say construction of the Canada-to-Texas tar sands pipeline will create jobs, while many Democrats say it is too great a threat to the environment to warrant being built.

Conservative legislation is also coming at the state level.  Republicans in at least nine states are planning to pass "right to work" laws, which prohibit union security for employees.

The Washington Post reports:

Twenty-four states already have such laws on the books, and new measures have been or will be proposed in Wisconsin, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Democrats and union officials warn Republicans against going too far, just a few years after bills targeting public-sector employee unions sparked protests in Wisconsin and Ohio. “These bills have proven time and time again to decrease wages and safety standards in all workplaces,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.

Elsewhere, anti-choice legislation is likely to move forward. The Post reports that measures banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy may advance in Wisconsin, South Carolina, and West Virginia, with other strict regulations coming in Missouri and Tennessee.

Also on the chopping block are Environmental Protection Agency pollution rules and an overhaul of Medicare benefits. "Senate Republicans want belt-tightening, but McConnell didn't promise a balanced budget in 10 years," the AP writes.

The AP continues: "Republicans also want to consider legislation blocking Obama's normalized relations with Cuba, penalizing Iran and authorizing force against Islamic State militants."

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