POLITICS
01/15/2015 02:17 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2015

Koch-Funded Group Says GOP Responsible For Pushing Policy In New Congress

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Leaders of the the flagship organization of the political network backed by industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch presented a surprisingly modest policy wish-list at a press conference Thursday.

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said the group's three tax-related priorities were a return to regular budget order, a repeal of the "death tax," and tax-free repatriation of U.S. profits held abroad.

"On the budget, with Republicans in control of both chambers and with the threshold in the Senate lower to get a budget through, it's incumbent on Republicans, candidly, to do the job done here and to not fall back into what they did in the early 2000s when they lost their way on spending," Phillips said.

The influential organization, which claims more than 2 million supporters across 34 state chapters, says it knocked on 2.5 million doors leading up to November's midterm elections. Since those efforts helped Republicans take control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House of Representatives, AFP hopes the GOP will pursue its goals.

"Some folks say that, well, for the next two years you can’t really accomplish anything," Phillips said, referencing the pending Republican presidential nomination fight and the reality that President Barack Obama remains in office.

"In the 1990s Bill Clinton worked with a Republican Congress, which balanced the budget in consecutive years, passed truly historic welfare reform and passed [the North American Free Trade Agreement]," he pointed out. "We were healthier economically because of that cooperation across the lines, and so we are hopeful."

Phillips took a historic view of how Republicans could go about accomplishing his organization's agenda, and said it would "hold them accountable" if they failed to pursue such policies. He seemed much more nostalgic for the Clinton era than for the George W. Bush years.

"When you think about the last time Republicans held Congress, they did some good things, but they failed miserably on the growth of government and specifically government spending," he said. "They’ve been given a second chance by the American people."

And, though Phillips called the Affordable Care Act the "single most dominant issue in the election," Brent Gardner, the group's vice president of government affairs, suggested the group would focus on going after the law's most "onerous parts" in the upcoming year. He suggested the GOP's strategy to dismantle the law would likely take a more piecemeal approach in the final two years of Obama's term.

"There's low-hanging fruit that has strong bipartisan support that we can work with a coalition in Congress" to attack, Gardner said, identifying a repeal of the medical device tax as something he was “relatively confident” Republicans could accomplish.

The group's leadership team also said preventing a gas tax hike would be one of its priorities, given the threat posed by a dip in gas prices and the looming expiration of the temporary highway funding bill Congress passed last year.

"It’s incredible that one of the few breaks that Americans citizens have had when it comes to keeping money in their pockets is something immediately that politicians want to go after," Gardner said, arguing that gas pumps shouldn't serve as "ATMs" for Congress.

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