WASHINGTON (AP) - Hard-right House Republicans on Friday were discussing forming an America First Caucus, which one document described as championing "Anglo-Saxon political traditions" and warning that mass immigration was putting the "unique identity" of the U.S. at risk.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the paper, which was first reported by Punchbowl News, a news outlet covering Capitol Hill. The AP could not independently confirm the organization’s origins or current status, but Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he was joining and indicated that fellow conservative Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was behind it.
The document was being circulated as the GOP is struggling to determine a clear direction as it prepares to try winning back control of the House and Senate in the 2022 elections. Among the party's divisions are how closely to tack behind Donald Trump, and the caucus' seven-page policy platform clearly embraces the former president's world view.
"The America First Caucus (AFC) exists to promote Congressional policies that are to the long-term benefit of the American nation," it begins. It says the group aims to "follow in President Trump’s footsteps, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice sacred cows for the good of the American nation."
The group calls for limiting legal immigration "to those that can contribute not only economically, but have demonstrated respect for this nation’s culture and rule of law." It voices support for infrastructure "that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture."
In a striking criticism, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., issued a tweet that an aide confirmed was aimed at the group.
"America is built on the idea that we are all created equal and success is earned through honest, hard work. It isn’t built on identity, race, or religion," McCarthy wrote. "The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans—not nativist dog whistles."
No. 3 House GOP leader Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted: "We teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage. Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate."
Cheney voted to impeach Trump in January and has been under fire from some of the party's most far-right lawmakers and the former president.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Punchbowl said the group was linked to Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. Over GOP objections, the House voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments early this year for her recycling of violent, conspiratorial ideas on social media.
Asked to provide a copy of the caucus document, Greene spokesman Nick Dyer said in an email: "We aren’t circulating anything, Alan. This was a typical DC gossip leak."
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told reporters he was considering joining the caucus and said, "Yes," when asked if Greene and Gosar were involved with it.
Gaetz tweeted: "I’m proud to join @mtgreenee in the #AmericaFirst Caucus. We will end wars, stop illegal immigration & promote trade that is fair to American workers." Gaetz is facing a federal investigation for sex trafficking accusations, according to people who have described the probe on condition of anonymity.
The document aims some of its toughest language at immigration. President Joe Biden's administration has struggled to handle large numbers of migrants at the Southwest border and has had little success winning legislation in Congress.
"America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions," the paper says. "History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country."
It adds that "the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk is something our leaders" cannot ignore.
The document espouses Trump's false claims that "recent election results demonstrate a compromised integrity of our elections." It proposes curbing high technology firms that are "weaponized and deployed against conservatives" and lambasts steps against the pandemic like mandates for masks, social distancing and lockdowns for "conditioning the culture and behavior of Americans" and destroying the economy.
It says "better waste management" would be more helpful for the environment than Paris Climate Accord efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.