Republican Study Committee leaders struck a defiant tone on Tuesday afternoon when discussing conservatism’s prospects in the next congressional session.
The American Enterprise Institute hosted outgoing Republican Study Committee chairman Jim Jordan and incoming chair Steve Scalise to discuss "Conservatism in the 113th Congress." AEI president Arthur Brooks moderated the event.
"We were reelected with a mandate not only to be in charge of the House but to be that only line of defense against a radical administration," said incoming chairman Scalise.
Brooks formatted the event as a question and answer session, with Brooks asking the two leaders questions, followed by questions from the audience.
Jordan said the election was not a referendum on Republican policy proposals. "Elections are still about candidates," he said.
He emphasized principled leadership in the government. He said the Republican Party stands for lower taxes, less government spending, a strong national defense, and traditional American values.
"When we stick with our principles and present them correctly and appropriately with the right tone and the right passion and the right way, we win," he said.
Scalise saw a rough road ahead for Republicans.
"If you look at where we are and where we need to go in this next Congress, we’ve got great challenges ahead," he said. "We know what we’re facing in terms of what this president wants to do."
Inevitably, the discussion turned to the fiscal cliff negotiations between House Republican leadership and the White House.
Scalise called the White House’s proposal to give the president unilateral authority to raise the debt ceiling "one of the most frightening proposals to come out of this town."
"I think most people that have young kids recognize the ability for our children to have the same opportunity that we enjoy today is at risk because of spending. Period. The biggest threat," he said. "And yet the President wants to continue spending."
Scalise invoked the supply-side argument that cutting taxes can raise government revenue by growing the overall economy. Both he and Jordan argued that the government should cut spending.
Jordan and Scalise also both adamantly opposed any tax rate increases. Jordan advocated for a "simpler, flatter, fairer" tax system and said that he would oppose any package that raises tax rates on anyone.
"Look, if it has a tax increase in it, I’m not going to be for it," he said.