GOP tries toning down the rhetoric

But one former House GOPer called it putting "lipstick on a pig," when it comes to the old conservative agenda

Published February 6, 2013 2:03PM (EST)

Since Republicans lost big in the 2012 elections, there's been a lot of talk about a new direction for the party. Karl Rove is using his super PAC to crush far-right potential candidates like Todd Akin. House Republicans are trying something else: same conservative policies, now with less fiery rhetoric.

In a big speech on Tuesday before the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., struck a softer tone on social issues and the Republican agenda. He called for the GOP to "focus our attention really on what lies beyond the fiscal debates” and to promote “conditions for health, happiness and prosperity.” Cantor also floated the Twitter hashtag #MakingLifeWork as representative of this new tack.

But the policies, it seems, are not going to change. As Brian Beutler from TPM reports:

Nevertheless, as Cantor delivered his remarks, GOP leaders simultaneously denounced Obama’s proposal to pay down the sequester’s deep spending cuts with a mix of more gradual cuts and higher taxes on wealthy interests. For them, the sequester — all $1.2 trillion worth — can only be paid down with cuts to other programs. No new revenue, no matter the source, according to influential Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).

In order then, replacing the sequester with cuts to food stamps and Medicaid would be preferable to letting the sequester take effect, but both would be preferable than any sequester replacement that includes even a thimble full of tax revenue wrung from closing loopholes that benefit powerful interests.

The GOP’s real, immediate priorities are no different than they were before the election.

Steve Benen at agreed:

In fairness, the Virginia Republican proposed that his party take a more constructive course on immigration policy, which was a genuine, pleasant change of pace. Indeed, Cantor seemed to endorse the general tenets of the Dream Act, which represented quite a reversal -- Cantor himself has voted against the legislation in the recent past.

But on literally everything else, the Majority Leader took told GOP ideas, stuck them in the microwave for a minute, and tried to pretend he'd prepared a fresh meal. Cantor still wants to repeal "Obamacare," fund private school vouchers, and encourage colleges to "provide prospective students with reliable information on the unemployment rate and potential earnings by major."

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, a moderate, doesn't think this will work. "It can't just be tone," he told NBC News. "Because just changing the tone is going to be like putting a lipstick on a pig — it pretties things up, but doesn't really change the fact that it's a pig."

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2012 Elections Barack Obama Eric Cantor House Republicans John Boehner Republicans