The Republican party has “overpromised and under-delivered” for so long that it has created Donald Trump’s candidacy, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday at the Conservative Policy Summit at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
The South Carolina Republican asked whether anyone in the the room had been to one of Trump’s campaign rallies.
“I may be the only member of Congress who’s gone to one,” he said. “I went mainly to see who was there. And it’s the folks who work at the local bank, off-duty law enforcement, people who work for the paper mill in my district.”
Mulvaney spoke on a panel with co-founders of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus: Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. The group agreed that the Republican party needs to pay attention to how ordinary Americans are reacting to the candidates and focus on regaining their trust by delivering results.
Over 63 percent voted for an outsider in Iowa because they are fed up with what’s happening in Washington and the Republican Party. We have to wake up to that reality.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.
“No offense, but people in this room aren’t the base, and we need more of those people to start winning,” Mulvaney said, calling the tone of Trump’s rally “aspirational and positive.”
“He only attacked two groups, politicians and the media,” he said. “They hate all of us.”
The panel was hosted by Heritage Action for America, the think tank’s lobbying arm, and focused on the how the House Freedom Caucus is “changing the game” for conservatives. Its 40 or so members played a major role in former House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to retire from Congress and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s sudden withdrawal from the speaker’s race last October, opening the door for the initially reluctant Paul Ryan.
The group has developed into an influential voting bloc in the past year.
“We have a bit of legislative history now, to convince people that we are credible and we are real, and we can and will and do vote as a bloc,” Mulvaney told McClatchy after the event.
We’ve overpromised and underdelivered for so long that we’ve created Donald Trump.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.
The group’s members are now gearing up for a fight over the 2017 budget.
“We’re being asked right now to vote for a budget and level of spending none of us support,” Mulvaney said, arguing that until they “figure out a way to change the game, that idea of spending, spending, spending,” Republicans will be afraid to vote against it and continue the cycle.
The conservative lawmakers stressed that fighting for fiscal discipline in Congress is one of the main ways to regain voters’ trust.
“We can’t just say the right thing. We have to do the right thing. Otherwise the American people won’t trust the Republican party again,” Meadows said.
Responding to a question about whether their goals are actually achievable, Mulvany turned back to the presidential election.
The American people don’t believe that anything is going to change – they constantly send people to Washington who drink the Kool-Aid and all of a sudden start to think like everyone else in D.C. instead of Main Street.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.
“The Republican party is saying to be realistic, and don’t engage in fights you can’t win,” Labrador said. “The Democratic party is telling voters ‘We’re gonna do the things that you want us to do.’ You have a socialist (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders) telling them that he’s going to give them free healthcare; no one is telling him to have more realistic goals. And he’s the most popular person in the party right now.”
Mulvaney and his colleagues also spoke highly of former South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who is now the president of the Heritage Foundation.
“We got a lot of good men and women running (in the 2016 election) regardless of who you’re with,” Mulvaney said, getting applause from the audience when he pointed out that DeMint had championed emerging stars like presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, when they first came to the Senate.
The real challenge is finding a candidate who can sell “solid conservative principles” to new voters without pandering, Mulvaney said in an interview.
“We’re losing – we need to figure out a way to take our message to new groups of people, and do more than just stir up the base,” he said.
Mulvaney endorsed Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in September. Paul dropped out of the race on Wednesday after finishing with under 5 percent in the Iowa caucuses.
“I have not settled on a new candidate,” he told McClatchy. “I’m evidently one of the most popular things in South Carolina today, which is an undecided voter.”