By Karen Tumulty
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — After years in which the Republicans' answer to almost every question was to reduce spending and lower taxes, some of the party's most influential voices are beginning to suggest that it is time to take a broader — and softer — focus.
The latest to join that movement is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Va., who in a speech on Tuesday called for Republicans to "focus our attention really on what lies beyond the fiscal debates" and to create "conditions for health, happiness and prosperity."
As is fashionable these days, Cantor even came up with a catchy Twitter hashtag for his rebranding effort: #MakingLifeWork.
Changing the subject from fiscal issues could prove difficult, however, given that congressional Republicans are squaring off with President Barack Obama over the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that are set to take effect on March 1. And later next month, the stopgap resolution that is keeping the government going will expire, igniting yet another battle over spending.
Cantor's new prescription also comes at a time when tensions within the party are rising over how to reorient after losses in November's election. It is an argument that pits the GOP establishment, which is advocating a more pragmatic course, against insurgent forces such as the tea party, which insist that the best way out of the wilderness is to hew to purist conservative orthodoxy.
In his address to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Cantor advocated policies aimed at making conservative principles more resonant in the lives of struggling middle-class Americans.
Among his proposals: holding schools more accountable to the concerns of parents, making colleges more attuned to the job market, giving more flexibility to hourly workers who want to spend time with their families, simplifying the tax code and speeding breakthrough medical research.