House Republicans intend to make the economy and jobs a major part of the new Contract With America they hope to unveil in September.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) has been charged with putting together the section on jobs, which Republicans see as a unifying policy position for a conference that unanimously rejected President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package last year.
Roskam said he'll be meeting with small-business owners and other job creators rather than economists to develop the economic plank of a new conference platform.
"There's a sense of clarity that jobs are something that we need to focus on, and who better to talk to than employers and small business[es] and job creators?" Roskam said. "Economists are interesting and charming and bright, but they are not running businesses."
Republicans argue jobs will be a winning issue for them this fall, partly because they opposed a stimulus package that has enlarged the government and budget deficit while doing too little to stop a skyrocketing unemployment rate that now stands at 9.5 percent.
American Conservative Union (ACU) President David Keene said Republicans are wise to focus more on jobs and the economy instead of national-security or social issues.
"The heart of the shared values of most of these conservatives is really limited government and fiscal responsibility that holds them all together. So whether you are a social conservative or a defense conservative or an economic conservative, you agree with that," said Keene, who writes a column for The Hill.
Democrats say they're not worried about a GOP press on the economy this fall, as they argue House Republican leaders have shown they are out of touch with the public on the economy. They highlighted House GOP Leader John Boehner's (Ohio) remark last week comparing the financial crisis to an ant.
"John Boehner just about said it all last week about Republicans' efforts to turn back the clock to the failed Bush policies that favored big corporate special interests when he referred to the financial crisis as an 'ant' and called Wall Street reform an 'overreaction,' " Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesman Ryan Rudominer said in a statement.
Republicans hope to rally around a new document modeled after the 1994 GOP "Contract With America," which helped the party regain control of the House for the first time in 40 years. They hope to replicate those gains this November, but will need to pick up dozens of seats to do so.
Over the recess, Republicans have been asked to hold town halls to collect information and ideas from their constituents that could be incorporated into the new document. More ideas are being gathered at the GOP's new website, AmericaSpeakingOut.com.
Since the website went live in late May, America Speaking Out spokesman Brendan Buck said, the GOP has garnered more than10,000 ideas or solutions to problems it believes Congress needs to fix.
Lawmakers are also talking among themselves about ideas for the contract.
"There are conversations every single day among our members" on what to include in the document, Boehner told The Hill last week.
House GOP Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy's (Calif.) advisory committee, which is crafting what Republicans hope will be a governing document, will hold an open meeting with other GOP lawmakers next week to discuss the feedback.
Under the 1994 Contract With America, spearheaded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Congress voted on 10 pieces of legislation ranging from welfare reform to term limits.