What Republicans want to do for families if they retake the House


Published October 5, 2022

Deseret News

From COVID-19 shutdowns to woke nonsense in classrooms, Republicans in states like Florida and Virginia found electoral success in responding to parents’ concerns and in directly addressing the cultural and economic threats undermining their families. 

Now, Republicans in Washington, D.C., are starting to lean into that same framing — and stand to reap the rewards. 

The Republican Study Committee, one of the most influential groups of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, last Thursday released a comprehensive agenda on family policy. It is a welcome collection of proposed legislation and ideas that demonstrate the Republican Party’s newfound willingness to advance policies that will strengthen family life, from unborn children to the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.

Republicans have always been good at resisting the latest progressive incursion in the culture war and talking about the importance of the family. But Republicans have not always been as good at advancing a constructive policy agenda that would help working-class families deal with the burdens of everyday life. 

In a day and age when marriage and fertility rates are at record lows, and when too many parents feel overwhelmed by the financial challenges of supporting their family and protecting their children from Big Tech, it’s long past time for the Republican Party to marry its pro-family talk to a more robust policy agenda. Thankfully, the agenda produced by the Republican Study Committee under the direction of chairman Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., takes a much-needed next step that acknowledges that the forces undermining American family life are both cultural and economic. 

First and foremost, the committee recognizes the need to give parents more tools to protect their kids online. Changing laws that govern how kids access the internet — from requiring minors to have parental consent to open a new social media account to giving parents more ability to see what their children are viewing and posting — is essential. Republicans should champion these ideas and stand up for parental rights in the classroom, in health care decisions and in the public square. 

But in addition to some of the culture-war issues that Republicans have successfully run on, the Republican Study Committee’s agenda includes a host of promising ideas that would strengthen parents’ ability to provide for their families and balance the demands of work and home life. Giving workers more flexibility in accruing paid time off, affirming the importance of parental choice in child care programs, and expanding 529 savings plans to cover expenses relating to homeschooling are all practical solutions to families’ economic needs. 

No conservative approach to family policy would be complete without tackling the marriage penalties that plague our tax code and safety-net programs, making it more economically advantageous for low-income couples to cohabit rather than marry. The new policy agenda proposes reviving marriage as an economically beneficial institution for low-income and working-class couples by removing these penalties, as well as by making it easier for individuals to enter the middle class by offering a broader array of workforce training options as opposed to the college-for-all mentality that has been dominant for too long. 

There are some other bread-and-butter conservative policy ideas as well: strengthening school choice, protecting faith-based social service providers from discrimination, protecting girls’ sports and cracking down on child pornography. Notably, in a post-Dobbs America, the study committee devotes a section to greater efforts to support moms facing unexpected pregnancies, including making fathers responsible for child support during pregnancy, providing more funding for safety-net services and strengthening laws against pregnancy discrimination. 

As always with such a wide-ranging list, further discussions are needed; some ideas don’t go far enough, and some need to be fleshed out a little more. The agenda positively mentions Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act, but falls short of a full endorsement. Romney’s plan would be a dramatic step toward ridding the tax code of marriage penalties, providing real assistance to ordinary families struggling to cover the costs of raising children and supporting pregnant moms — all in a budget-neutral way. A conservative pro-family agenda requires something like the Family Security Act at its core. 

But for a party that is too often content to rely on vague platitudes rather than putting out concrete party platforms, the Republican Study Committee’s family policy agenda is a welcome reminder that there are still lawmakers interested in doing the vital work of governing. Not every one of the more than 80 recommendations will come up for a vote, but taken together, they provide a compelling vision of what a Republican Party that cares about parents’ interests should prioritize if it takes back the House next month.  We hope that Republicans will have an opportunity to prove that their commitment to family is more than talk by enacting much of this agenda in the next Congress. 

Patrick T. Brown is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where his work with the Life and Family Initiative focuses on developing a robust pro-family economic agenda and supporting families as the cornerstone of a healthy and flourishing society.

Photo by Tobin Rogers on Unsplash


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