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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Progressive activists ready campaign to counter new House GOP majority

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) departs a meeting with House Republicans in the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 14, 2022.

By Carl Hulse

With Republicans on track to assume control of the House next year, progressive groups that have been bracing for that prospect for months are rolling out a coordinated campaign to counter the new majority as soon it takes charge in January.

Under the umbrella of an initiative called Courage for America, progressive activists plan to establish a war room, begin media campaigns, hold events in targeted congressional districts and conduct other activities to emphasize what they see as the harms of Republican policies and counter the GOP’s efforts to hamstring and tarnish the Biden administration with a barrage of investigations.

“What Courage for America aims to do is really make sure the MAGA agenda doesn’t get passed without strenuous opposition,” said Naveed Shah, a spokesperson and senior adviser for the group, which expects to have a seven-figure budget funded by donors who can remain anonymous.

“A big part of this work is making sure that regular people see what is happening and don’t have the wool pulled over their eyes,” added Shah, an Army veteran who is also the political director for Common Defense, an organization of progressive veterans.

The Courage for America effort, just one of the Democratic-allied campaigns springing up after the midterm loss of the House, will focus both on Republican policies on issues including entitlements, immigration, abortion rights, the environment and health care and on expected investigations the groups decry as politically motivated.

A new House “accountability war room” supported by Courage for America will be independently run by Zac Petkanas, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked for Harry Reid of Nevada in the Senate and on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, where he was director of rapid response.

Its new website features a prominent picture of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the right-wing firebrand from Georgia, along with Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the party’s nominee for speaker, and declares that the House GOP “puts power over the freedoms and well-being of American families.”

“We are committed to holding them accountable for how they choose to wield their considerable new power,” it says.

Petkanas promised an aggressive approach and a sharp focus on the members of the new Republican majority, many of whom are little known outside a circle of high-profile far-right conservatives, to educate “the American people on who is acting in their name and what they are trying to do.” He said the group would also provide strategic advice and guidance on the most effective messages to push back on Republicans.

The effort comes as Republicans, who won a historically small House majority last week, toil to overcome their divisions and figure out how to govern. Democrats are primed to do as much as they can to disrupt the delicate balance that McCarthy will have to strike, should he win the speakership, to keep a handle on his fractious ranks.

The new liberal groups intend to work in cooperation with other, more established organizations that are also gearing up for showdowns with the new House majority and believe their experience in monitoring Republicans in recent years will prove an advantage. At the same time, the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers are preparing for the onslaught, bringing on staff experts, communications specialists and lawyers versed in investigations to help with responding to the Republican efforts.

“We are more ready than I feel we have been before,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of watchdog group Public Citizen, part of an existing coalition called Not Above the Law, which has focused on what it sees as abuse of power by former President Donald Trump and his allies. “We know the playbook in a real way.”

McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the emerging campaign. But Republicans are aware that well-funded groups on the left will do what they can to stir opposition to the new majority.

In an appearance Sunday on Fox News, McCarthy made it clear that he would not be deterred from leading an ambitious House majority if he can secure the votes to become speaker, a tall order given opposition to him on the far right and the party’s razor-thin vote margin. He argued that fellow House Republicans should rally around him so they could follow through with their legislative proposals and plans to shine a spotlight on the Biden administration.

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