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Washington's not listening to America

By Kevin McCarthy, Special to CNN
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy says Washington hasn't been listening to what Americans want
  • He says people wanted lower health care costs, not a costly new entitlement
  • People wanted more jobs, not a stimulus that has failed to keep unemployment down, he says
  • McCarthy says the GOP is asking Americans for ideas for a new policy agenda

Editor's note: Rep. Kevin McCarthy represents the 22nd District of California and is the chief deputy Republican whip in the House.

(CNN) -- Washington isn't listening. The disconnect between the American people and the agenda being advanced in Washington is growing by the day.

When Americans have spoken up, their voices have fallen on deaf ears. Political expedience and partisan allegiances have repeatedly trumped the priorities of the American people.

Americans wanted jobs, but instead Washington passed a "stimulus" that has failed to keep unemployment below 8 percent as promised -- while producing countless instances of government waste.

Americans wanted lower health care costs, but instead Washington passed a health care law that will actually increase costs and hurt our economy. Americans want common-sense fiscal discipline, but Washington continues to spend money we don't have and pile debt on future generations.

The current approach in Washington is failing the American people, who deserve a Congress and a government that puts their priorities and everyday concerns first. It's not enough, however, for Republicans to simply state our principled opposition to the current agenda. We must also offer the American people a clear set of solutions they can expect us to fight for, a project that House Republican Leader John Boehner has tasked me to lead.

Shortly after beginning this important work, we realized that distrust in government runs too deep to simply hand down a policy plan from Washington. More than just new policy, we also need to change the way Washington sets its policy. That notion is the driving force behind America Speaking Out, an unprecedented initiative designed to engage the public in a discussion of your priorities for America.

Read more about the GOP's plan

Beginning next week, House Republicans will be setting out across the country to hold America Speaking Out town halls, where we will seek your input on creating a new policy agenda. At the same time, we will be using all the technological tools available to us, such as phone apps and telephone town halls, to listen to the priorities of the American people.

Video: Election 2.0

This effort includes a new interactive website -- -- that will allow anyone, regardless of party, to submit what he or she believes should be a part of this new plan. We have developed this site to be the home for an online conversation between members of Congress and those they are elected to represent. These ideas and exchanges will serve as the building blocks for the governing agenda we will present to the American people later this year.

Of course, this will be a Republican agenda, so this project is designed to take core common-sense, conservative principles -- whether it's building a smaller, more accountable government, economic freedom and lower taxes, or providing for a strong national defense -- and discuss how they can be applied to America's priorities. Rather than a listening tour, we are seeking a robust debate about the challenges we face and the solutions that should be pursued.

Leadership is about laying out clear solutions to the challenges we face, just as we have offered positive alternatives to Democratic policies with which we disagree. But leadership today also requires a humility that appreciates that Americans are really in charge of Congress.

America Speaking Out recognizes that the wisdom and will of the American people are the only things strong enough to change the course our nation is on. Building a new agenda for our nation starts today, and we hope all Americans will join us in the process.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kevin McCarthy.