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House Republicans to unveil campaign blueprint this week

From Deirdre Walsh and Dana Bash, CNN
  • NEW: GOP plan will require legislation to cite its constitutional authority
  • Democrats dismiss upcoming GOP plan as more of the same
  • The plan will be announced at a Virginia hardware store
  • Sources say it will address economic priorities, other issues

Washington (CNN) -- House Republicans plan to unveil what amounts to a campaign blueprint on Thursday in suburban Virginia, GOP sources have told CNN.

The much anticipated announcement comes after a nearly three-month-long listening session with the public online and through town hall meetings, dubbed "America Speaking Out," and is intended to show that House Republicans would have a governing agenda if rewarded with majority control in the congressional elections on November 2.

Many GOP strategists call such an agenda -- like the 1994 Contract with America -- a critical missing ingredient for Republicans this election season to help give voters a reason to vote for GOP lawmakers, not just against Democrats.

Republican leaders plan to brief rank-and-file House members Wednesday on the details of the plan, which is still being refined, according to the GOP sources.

Unlike the Contract with America in 1994, which was presented with a big signing ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, House Republican leaders will lay out the details of the new plan during a news conference at a hardware story in Sterling, Virginia, following a meeting with small-business leaders, sources said.

A senior GOP leadership aide working on the project told CNN that it will focus mostly on economic priorities like creating jobs and reducing spending. Themes covered in the agenda also include health care, national security and reform of Congress itself, according to the senior GOP aide.

While the Contract with America was 10 items, the new plan is expected to be about 20, organized under the five themes, according to the GOP aide.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican deputy whip in the House, had tentatively dubbed the plan "A Commitment to America," but the GOP leadership aide said the name is likely to change.

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Leaders have described the plan as a "governing agenda" for the top issues facing Americans. Although the House is likely to wrap up its current session by the end of this month, Republican leaders are framing the blueprint as a list of proposals the House should be voting on before it goes home for the November elections.

While many Republicans say presenting an agenda document is crucial, others aren't so sure.

A House GOP strategist highly involved in getting Republicans elected told CNN it was important to abide by the so-called "80-20 rule," meaning "the election is 80 percent about Democrats and 20 percent about us."

"This election needs to remain a referendum on [President] Obama, [House Speaker] Pelosi and the Democrats, but voters need to be aware that Republicans are a viable alternative and we are ready to govern," the GOP strategist said.

The senior GOP leadership aide said that about two-thirds of the items in the plan are actual legislative proposals. Other ideas include actions that Republicans believe the House should take, but don't require a vote. For example, one item would insist that all House members get 72 hours to read bills before floor votes.

A senior GOP leadership aide said the plan also will include a proposal that requires all House legislation to "cite its constitutional authority," an apparent response to concerns raised by many Republicans that a key provision in the health care reform law mandating insurance coverage violates the Constitution's commerce clause. Several states have filed lawsuits challenging the health insurance mandate.

Proposals similar to House Minority Leader John Boehner's plan to freeze all tax rates at current levels for two years and cut spending back to 2008 levels will be included, the sources said.

Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders are likely to use the limited procedural options they have as the minority party to try to force House floor votes this week on some of the proposals.

Democratic aides on Capitol Hill dismissed the upcoming GOP agenda as nothing new, saying Republicans are offering the same policies they championed when they ran the House.

House Democratic leaders have been sending reporters "fact sheets" that push back at what they call the actual GOP agenda, which they describe as tax cuts for the rich and outsourcing jobs.

"No matter how (Republicans) package it, Americans know the real Republican agenda," Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi, told CNN. "Republicans want to privatize Social Security, ship American jobs overseas and give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. Democrats will protect Social Security, give tax cuts to the middle class and 'Make it in America.'"