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Event Summary

Leading policymakers and thinkers gathered at AEI Thursday to discuss conservative policy options to further the prosperous society President Lyndon Johnson described in his “Great Society” address 50 years ago.

Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) began by defining their vision for conservative domestic reform. Rep. Cantor described reform conservatism as a sweeping effort to enable Americans to pursue happiness through earned success. Sen. Lee called for removing excessive regulation to promote innovation and growth. Sen. Scott contended that education is the gateway to the American dream and highlighted how school choice programs set students on pathways to success.

In his keynote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed many of these sentiments, emphasizing that these powerful reform ideas should speak for themselves and engender bipartisan support.

In a discussion among leading conservative thinkers about the solutions presented in the YG Network’s new book “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class,” Yuval Levin of National Affairs and Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center called for policymakers to look forward rather than fight past battles. Levin described how experimentation, evaluation, and evolution are essential to successful policies. The YG Network’s Reihan Salam advocated for a comprehensive rethinking of higher education to address ballooning tuition costs. And AEI’s Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat of The New York Times argued that conservatives can expand their electorate by demonstrating how their policies will enable Americans to prosper.
–Jonathan Buchleiter

Event Description

Many conservatives in Congress are advocating for a new domestic reform agenda that will better serve the middle class. Americans, they believe, do not want the federal government to grow even bigger but do want public policies that can help lift some of the burdens they face, from health care and higher education costs to balancing work and life. Most Americans believe they are in the middle class but worry that they or their children may fall out of it, and they do not think today’s federal government is prepared to stand behind them.

On the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech, please join AEI for two panels in which policymakers and leading thinkers will discuss practical, conservative domestic reform solutions. The first panel will include members of Congress discussing a solution-oriented, conservative agenda for the middle class. The second panel will feature an address by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a discussion among leading conservative thinkers about the solutions presented in the YG Network’s new book “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class.”


8:45 AM
Registration and Breakfast

9:00 AM
Panel I
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI

Eric Cantor, US House of Representatives (R-VA)
Mike Lee, US Senate (R-UT)
Tim Scott, US Senate (R-SC)

Arthur C. Brooks, AEI

10:00 AM
Panel II
Mitch McConnell, US Senate (R-KY)

10:30 AM
Panel III
Ross Douthat, The New York Times
Yuval Levin, National Affairs and Ethics and Public Policy Center
Ramesh Ponnuru, AEI and National Review
Reihan Salam, YG Network
Peter Wehner, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Kate O’Beirne, YG Network

11:15 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Emily Rapp at [email protected], 202.419.5212.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of AEI and the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in Free Enterprise. Until January 1, 2009, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of 10 books and many articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to applied mathematics. His books include “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise” (Basic Books, 2012), “Social Entrepreneurship” (Prentice Hall, 2008), and “Who Really Cares” (Basic Books, 2006). Before pursuing his work in public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles.

Eric Cantor has represented Virginia’s Seventh District in the US House of Representatives since 2001. In the wake of the 2010 midterm elections, Rep. Cantor was first elected by his colleagues in the House to serve as majority leader for the 112th Congress and was subsequently reelected for the 113th Congress. A former small businessman, he has emerged as a leading voice on the economy and job creation. As minority whip, he assembled a highly effective and energetic Republican whip team that served as the nerve center of the Republican Conference. In early 2009, the whip team coordinated the effort in which no Republicans voted for the nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. Rep. Cantor authored the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which became law in late 2006 and popularized health savings accounts. He also coauthored the New York Times bestselling book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders” (Threshold, 2010).

Ross Douthat joined The New York Times as an op-ed columnist in April 2009. Previously, he was a senior editor and blogger at The Atlantic. His most recent book is “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics” (Free Press, 2012). He is also the author of “Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class” (Hyperion, 2005) and the coauthor, with Reihan Salam, of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream” (Doubleday, 2008). He is likewise the film critic for National Review.

Mike Lee was elected in 2010 as Utah’s 16th senator. Before his election, he spent several years as an attorney with the law firm Sidley & Austin and then served as an assistant US attorney in Salt Lake City. He served the state of Utah as former governor Jon Huntsman’s general counsel and later clerked for Justice Alito on the Supreme Court, before returning to private practice. He advocates efforts to support constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and economic prosperity. His signature issue has been the passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. After writing a book on the subject titled “The Freedom Agenda” (Regenry Publishing, 2011), Sen. Lee coauthored an amendment that was cosponsored by the GOP Caucus. He also wrote the popular Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation that became a popular rallying cry for fiscal conservatives.

Yuval Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC). His areas of specialty include health care, entitlement reform, economic and domestic policy, science and technology policy, political philosophy, and bioethics. Levin’s essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, and Commentary. He is a contributing editor of National Review and, most recently, author of “The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left” (Basic Books 2013). He is also the founding editor of National Affairs magazine and a senior editor of EPPC’s journal, The New Atlantis. Before joining EPPC, Levin served on the White House domestic policy staff under President George W. Bush. His work focused on health care as well as bioethics and culture-of-life issues. He previously served as executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a congressional staffer.

Mitch McConnell is currently serving his fifth term representing the state of Kentucky in the US Senate. He has served as the Senate Republican leader since 2006 and holds senior positions on the Senate Appropriations, Agriculture, and Rules committees. Before assuming his current leadership position, Sen. McConnell served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 1998 and 2000 election cycles and was the majority whip in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Early in his career, McConnell worked as chief legislative assistant to former Sen. Marlow Cook (R-KY) and as deputy assistant attorney general to former president Gerald Ford. Before his election to the Senate in 1984, he served as judge executive of Jefferson County, KY, from 1978 until commencing his senatorial term on January 3, 1985.

Kate O’Beirne is an adviser to YG Network on policy and issue-advocacy efforts, focusing on special projects. She is the former president of the nonprofit National Review Institute, founded by William F. Buckley Jr., and was National Review magazine’s Washington editor. O’Beirne spent 10 years as a member of CNN’s Capital Gang and has been a frequent panelist on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” She was previously vice president of government relations for the Heritage Foundation, deputy assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services under President Ronald Reagan, and has served in other senior roles throughout her career.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, where he has covered national politics and public policy for 18 years. Ponnuru is also a columnist for Bloomberg View. A prolific writer, he is the author of a monograph about Japanese industrial policy and a book about American politics and the sanctity of human life. At AEI, Ponnuru examines the future of conservatism, with particular attention to health care, economic policy, and constitutionalism.

Reihan Salam is a policy adviser to YG Network, providing analysis on domestic policy and politics. In addition to his frequent appearances on CNN, Salam is contributing editor at National Review and lead blogger for National Review Online’s The Agenda; columnist for Slate and Reuters; contributing editor at National Affairs; media fellow at the R Street Institute; coauthor, with Ross Douthat, of “Grand New Party: How Conservatives Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream” (Doubleday, 2008); and host of “The Vice Podcast Show.”

Tim Scott was named to the US Senate in 2013, filling the seat vacated by former Senator Jim DeMint. Scott is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and the Senate Special Committee on Aging. He is also the ranking member on the Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion Subcommittee. Scott focuses on reducing federal spending, job creation, economic growth, and veterans’ affairs. In his first 100 days as senator, he worked with colleagues to introduce a balanced budget amendment and was an original cosponsor of a bill to permanently ban the earmarking process. Scott has also taken a strong stance in support of right-to-work states, and has been an outspoken critic of the president’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. He has also introduced an amendment to empower federal workers to choose whether they would like union dues taken out of their paychecks. Before his work in the Senate, Scott served South Carolina’s First District in the US House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013. During his time in the House, Scott was one of the two members of the 2010 freshman class chosen to sit at the House Republican leadership table. Previously, Scott served on Charleston County Council for 13 years, including four terms as chair. He also served for two years as chairman of the Freshman Caucus and as House whip in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Previously, he was the owner of Tim Scott Allstate and partner of Pathway Real Estate Group.

Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Wehner served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations before becoming deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush in 2001. In 2002, he was asked to head the Office of Strategic Initiatives, where he generated policy ideas, reached out to public intellectuals, published op-eds and essays, and provided counsel on a range of domestic and international issues. Before this, Wehner was executive director for policy for Empower America, a conservative public policy organization. Wehner also served as a special assistant to the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and, before that, as a speechwriter for then−secretary of education Bill Bennett. Wehner is the author of two books and writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national security issues.



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