MATTHEW BOYLE25 Feb 2021Orlando, FL
ORLANDO, Florida — Republican Study Committee (RSC) chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), someone who was first elected in 2016 alongside President Donald Trump and has since risen to lead the largest organization of conservative lawmakers in Congress, told Breitbart News in a lengthy exclusive interview that he intends to help flesh out the Trump agenda after the former president’s exit from office and to use that to help push the GOP further in the right direction.
When Republicans are focused on policy, and not personality, Banks said, they win. And Banks wants to lead the GOP’s efforts to frame a new agenda designed to take all the good parts of Trump’s policies and “marry” them with the good parts of the traditional conservative movement. Banks, who will host a panel with House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy here at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, is setting out to throw his weight around the RSC to push the party in a much more populist direction, following Trump’s lead on issues like immigration, China, and trade policy.
“After the outcome of the last election and the unique environment we find ourselves in in the minority in the House, and in the minority in the Senate, and with a Democrat in the White House, some people are calling this the ‘post-Trump era.’ What I’m trying to do with the Republican Study Committee is build a new conservative agenda,” Banks said in a phone interview last Friday. “What do I mean by that? A consensus conservative agenda that Republicans can rally around to refocus us again on the issues. At the same [time], we have to recognize we are at a new moment in American politics where the traditional conservative platform of the Republican Party is shifting. It’s changing. So it’s a recognition of the moment that the traditional Reagan-era platform of the Republican Party has to adapt to what we’ve learned in the Trump era. What do I mean by that? Well, the Republican Study Committee, which is the largest conservative caucus overall on Capitol Hill—there are 150 of us that make up more than three fourths of the Republican conference–we’re the heartbeat of the Republican conference on Capitol Hill and we’re the organization that for 47 years has been at the forefront of crafting the agenda.”
Banks continued by noting that Republicans would be foolish to dismiss Trump and what he did for the working class in this country—and what Trump did for the GOP. He is trying to bring Trump’s ideas and victories to the party as a whole, and use the RSC as an engine to drive that agenda forward.
“It’s important we learn the lessons that President Trump taught us so we can expand our agenda to attract non-traditional Republican voters and making the Republican Party permanently the party of the working class, which for most of my life we were not. Trump taught us how to appeal to working class voters,” Banks said. “I think he did that with a sharp focus on holding China accountable especially economically over bad trade arrangements. When I think about my district, which is a lot like most other Republican districts in America, with a large manufacturing base, a large agricultural base, for too long the Republican Party establishment sold us out to Wall Street and we were outsourcing our manufacturing jobs to China and our agriculture to Mexico. For too long, the Republican Party was not the party of working people. President Trump made us the party of the working class. If we don’t adapt our Republican Party agenda recognizing that, I don’t think we win elections in 2022 and 2024.”
Banks does not want to ditch what worked from the previous leaders of the conservative movement—social and fiscal conservatism, and strong national defense. But he wants to take that and merge it with the Trump agenda for working class Americans.
“So, all that to say, the Republican Study Committee as the largest conservative caucus on Capitol Hill, we’ve always had an intense focus on budgets and the national debt and fiscal responsibility,” Banks said. “We have to return the Republican Party to being the party of fiscal responsibility with the radical level of and expensive level of spending that the Democrats are pushing at the moment. The RSC is an organization that has always believed in a strong national defense. Keep in mind that with Bernie Sanders as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee threatening to cut defense spending, RSC is going to lead the way in maintaining the Trump-era defense budgets that restored our national defense and made our military strong again. The Republican Study Committee has always been for pro-family policies and pro-life policies. We don’t shy away from our social conservative values, so we’ll be at the forefront of those fights. Those are the traditional conservative values that harken back to the Reagan conservative platform, but the new Republican Study Committee recognizes we also have to adopt some of the more populist views of the Trump era and Trump administration, like for the first time we’ve made countering Communist China one of the key platforms of the Republican Study Committee. That’s a dedicated focus of the RSC and we believe it should be a dedicated focus of the Republican Party because it is a stark contrast with the Biden Administration, which is seeking to be the friendliest administration we’ve ever had toward China, and the Democrat Party–there is not a single Democrat on Capitol Hill able to speak out about the China threat. So we’ve adopted countering Communist China as a pillar of the RSC platform.”
On China, the organization—as Breitbart News previously reported—made a major legislative blitz pushing out more than a dozen pieces of legislation last week and dropping a report exposing President Joe Biden’s administration’s weakness on the issue. But it’s not just China. Banks also mentioned Big Tech, recognizing previous GOP weakness on the issue, and immigration, as well as election integrity. On immigration, this week Banks is hosting former Trump White House official Stephen Miller as well as former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan and immigration official Tom Homan to brief RSC members on the issue. On election integrity, the RSC has already produced an ideological counterweight to the Democrats’ signature bill HR1, which would nationalize elections—Banks would empower states to lead on securing the vote.
Banks said that RSC is “getting a lot of attention from national figures” because the group is “out there in a way that no one else is on Capitol Hill in formulating an agenda and a strategy in helping us win.” That is definitely true. Miller, the former senior Trump adviser, when reached last week, told Breitbart News that Banks “has a bold and courageous vision to turn the RSC into an in-house think tank for populist conservative policies and legislation.”
“It’s a powerful plan to dramatically reinvigorate the RSC and make it an indispensable repository of conservative ideas and bills to both advance the conservative agenda and also to unmask the Democrats as opponents of working class interests,” Miller said.
Banks continued in his interview by further explaining that agenda.
“Big Tech is an area where for 20 years Republicans sold out to Silicon Valley and Big Tech, hiding behind free market arguments,” Banks told Breitbart News. “Today, confronting Big Tech, especially as it relates to confronting Big Tech censorship and the Section 230 debate, the Republican Study Committee will be the at the middle of that. I believe one of the reasons why we need to do this is because the Republican Party base is demanding the party nationally confront Big Tech. We didn’t do it before Trump, but it’s now time for us to adopt this as a major pillar of our platform. Then, on immigration, President Trump was right on tough immigration policies from building the wall to enacting policies that crack down on illegal immigration that have been undone by the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress. This has become a key area where the RSC will be involved in, and we’ll be at the forefront of that debate as well. Then, the election issue—there is no issue that matters more to the Republican Party base today than election integrity, and RSC has already introduced the Safe Democracy Act, which makes appropriate election reforms at the state level and working with conservative state legislators throughout the country, all the while Democrats are pushing HR1 which would federalize elections and get all states toward mail-in ballots and do a lot of other dangerous things like DC statehood and public financing of campaigns. To your larger point, when Republicans focus on the issues we win. When we focus on these petty arguments about, when we go down the petty internal fights over whether or not to erase Donald Trump from our party, that’s when we lose.”
Overall, Banks said, the RSC is “steering the ship” inside the House GOP Conference, “building the consensus conservative agenda in the post-Trump era” that he says “Republicans can rally around not just to win the majority in 2022 and the White House back in 2024 but an agenda we can adopt for a new conservative movement.” In addition to key thought leaders, Banks said, he is also bringing in 2024 hopefuls like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence and others to meet with RSC members and discuss these issues. Pence, a former RSC chairman himself during his time in the House, considers the committee “near and dear to his heart,” Banks said.
“We have the unique platform from the Republican Study Committee to be able to do this because we are the largest conservative caucus and largest caucus overall, and we’re bringing in thought leaders like you mentioned. Stephen Miller is going to come and bring Matt Morgan and Homan in next week to talk about the Biden executive orders on immigration,” Banks said. “We had HR McMaster last week come and discuss how dangerous these actions that the early Biden administration has taken to undo President Trump’s efforts to counter Communist China. We’ve heard from everyone from Tucker Carlson, who spent an hour and a half with our leadership a few weeks ago, to we’re also hearing from almost every 2024 hopeful that you can imagine. They’re coming to the RSC because as I was saying the RSC is the heartbeat of the conservative movement on Capitol Hill. We welcome thought leaders, presidential hopefuls, anyone who wants to come be part of this conversation about where the Republican Party and conservative movement are going from here. We want them to come to the Republican Study Committee and come be a part of the conversation because it’s not happening, from my vantage point, anywhere else like it is at RSC…. We’ve heard a lot from Vice President Pence. He was the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee so the organization is near and dear to his heart. I think we’re meeting with him next week. We’ve heard a lot from Mike Pompeo. We’ve heard a lot from Nikki Haley. We’re working with Sen. Rick Scott on election integrity issues. He’s introducing in the Senate what we’ve introduced in the House. We’ve heard a lot from central figures like Chris Christie, and Tom Cotton worked with us a lot on one of our early positions that we took against the waiver for Gen. Austin. Sen. Cotton worked with us on that and on a lot of China-related issues.”
“I happen to believe that we have a strong and deep bench on the Republican side and I agree with you that President Trump is by far the most popular Republican in the party today,” Banks said. “I don’t know if he will run or not, and I’m only guessing when I say I don’t think he will run. If he doesn’t then we have a lot of really good candidates I think who can carry this mantle and the one that would win in that scenario is the one who recognizes what the Republican Study Committee is saying, which is that we have to marry the traditional Reagan conservative platform with a modern Trump-era platform in the party. The candidate who figures that out is going to be a candidate who wins the Republican primary and very likely win back the White House in 2024.”
What’s more, Banks added, Republican voters should expect to see the RSC “on the front lines” of major legislative battles with the Democrats in the weeks and months ahead.
“But RSC will be—we’re not going to compromise our core values—we are going to point out the hypocrisy of the left,” Banks said. “This Democrat Party is not my dad’s Democrat Party. This is a radicalized Democrat Party that has drifted so far to the left and put interests like the Green New Deal and radical environmentalist issues ahead of the interests of working people. The more that working people around the country see the Democrats put their radical interests ahead of working people, the more successful Republicans are going to be in 2022 and beyond. RSC is going to be the organization that points it out, but you can expect us to be engaged in all the major fights over the next couple years in a way that maybe you haven’t seen the RSC engaged in in a way before.”
The RSC, he added, “has ebbed and flowed in influence over 47 years.”
“On my watch, it’s going to be as influential as it’s ever been because you’re going to see us in the fray leading the fight and building the agenda,” Banks said. “That’s what RSC should be doing and as chairman I’m determined to make sure that it does.”