WASHINGTON—Hate crimes are up, President-elect Donald Trump spent his weekend tweeting a baseless claim about illegal votes and his ambition to jail flag-burners, and white nationalists are openly celebrating the incoming administration, but House Republicans are feeling pretty good about where the country is at right now.
Or at least that was the message projected on Tuesday morning by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “For everything that was said about this election, I don’t care what side you were on, you should feel good about the country,” the Republican from California told James Hohmann of The Washington Post. “The pundits were wrong, everybody else. So what does that tell you? Nobody controls this government but the people.”
The event itself was billed as a preview of the Republican agenda under Trump, but the Republican agenda has been remarkably consistent for the last eight years, so there wasn’t much new to preview. Instead, the conversation about legislative priorities and the state of the nation appeared to take place in an alternate universe in which the incoming president wasn’t the same guy insisting on the illegitimacy of the American electoral system and inviting his kids to sit in on meetings with foreign heads of state.
McCarthy, like a majority of his Republican colleagues in the House, is bullish on repealing the Affordable Care Act, as evidenced by the fact that his party has attempted to repeal the healthcare law more than 60 times since it was first signed into law in 2012. Ditto for sweeping tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit wealthy Americans and large corporations and the rollback of regulations on everything from financial transactions on Wall Street to environmental standards.
Many of these efforts, particularly around healthcare, have failed in the past, but McCarthy is optimistic that will change soon: “We’ve got to get work being done, and we can’t waste any of the weeks [ahead].”
So what does that agenda mean for the people who McCarthy thinks should feel good about the country?
When House Republicans first rolled out their “A Better Way” plan earlier this year, which McCarthy referenced throughout, the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 76.1% of its overall tax cuts would go to the top 1% of wealthy households come 2017. Flash forward a few years to 2025, and those same households get virtually all of the cuts—99.6% in total.
McCarthy called the plan, “simpler and fairer.”
The Majority Leader also said that Congress could act swiftly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has extended healthcare to 20 million people. Repealing was easy, McCarthy said, but “it’s the replacing Obamacare you want to make sure you get right.” Devising a replacement would take more time, he said. More time, even, than the four years the GOP has already had to come up with one.
Trump was mentioned, of course. As an ally on tax cuts, on repealing the healthcare law, as the candidate who flipped certain blue states. “With all the things people said to scare you about Donald Trump becoming president—they’re not true,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy was talking about the financial markets, but other kinds of fears—about the kinds of racism and social violence that have become bolder during Trump’s rise to the presidency—have born out.
Those things were not discussed. The only direct question about the president-elect’s pattern of behavior came toward the end of the event in a question about his claim that “millions of people who voted illegally” had robbed him of the popular vote.
McCarthy smiled warmly, as though repeatedly making factually unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud and the legitimacy of American democracy was some kind of charming quirk, then dodged. “The election is over… now let’s go govern,” he said.
“Just to close the loop, you didn’t see any signs of fraud in your home state or district?” James Hohmann asked.
“I say, let’s govern,” McCarthy replied with a wave of his hands.
But isn’t it important that the American people believe the votes were counted fairly, Hohmann asked again. “Yeah, so let’s move on,” McCarthy said, still smiling. “I saw the results come in… I don’t have a problem, I think it’s time to govern.”
Welcome to the next four years.