Republican Party officials say they will try next month to pass a resolution accusing President Bush and congressional Republican leaders of embracing socialist policies, underscoring deep dissension within the party at the end of Mr. Bush's administration.
Those pushing the resolution, which will come before the Republican National Committee at its January meeting, say elected leaders need to be reminded of core principles. They said the RNC must take the dramatic step of wading into policy debates, which have traditionally been left to lawmakers.
"We can't be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms," said Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and cosponsor of a resolution that criticizes the U.S. government bailouts of the financial and auto industries.
Republican National Vice Chairman James Bopp Jr. wrote the resolution and is asking the rest of the 168 voting members of the committee to sign it.
"The resolution also opposes President-elect Obama's proposed public works program and supports conservative alternatives," while encouraging the RNC "to engage in vigorous public policy debates consistent with our party platform," said Mr. Bopp, a leading lawyer for pro-life groups who has also challenged the campaign finance law Mr. Bush signed.
If it passed, the resolution would put the party on record opposing the $700 billion bailout of the financial sector, which passed Congress with Republican support and was signed by Mr. Bush, and opposing the bailout of the auto industry. The auto bailout bill was blocked by Senate Republicans, but Mr. Bush then reversed course and announced he would use financial bailout money to aid the auto manufacturers.
The RNC usually only plays a policy role every four years when it frames the national party platform, which usually is quickly forgotten.
Some party members tried in 2006, presenting a resolution challenging Mr. Bush's plan to legalize illegal immigrants and enact a guest- worker program. Mr. Bush's lieutenants fought back, arguing the party should not tie the hands of the president on a policy issue, and the RNC capitulated, passing an alternate White House-backed resolution instead.
This time, the backers of the new resolution say they will not be deterred by a fight, and say they have the numbers to pull off this rebellion.
"We have enough co-sponsors to take this to the RNC floor" at the party's Jan. 28-31 annual winter meeting in Washington, Mr. Bopp said. "I will take it to the Resolutions Committee, but I intend to press this issue to the floor for decision."
North Dakota GOP Chairman Gary Emineth said it's time for the RNC to end the disconnect between what the party platform says and what elected Republicans do.
"It is time the party gets involved in policy issues and forces candidates to respond to the platform," Mr. Emineth said. "Frankly, the way we view the platform is a joke. We work hard to drive our principles into the platform, then candidates ignore it."
"If the party doesn't move in this direction, we will continue to be irrelevant. Whoever has the larger star power will continue to win, and what they stand for and believe will become less relevant," Mr. Emineth said.
Nonetheless, not all RNC members -- including some of Mr. Bopp's fellow conservatives -- are pleased with the idea of having it make policy instead of simply minding the campaign fundraising store.
Ron Nehring, chairman of the California GOP, said the party also can't be seen endorsing a do-nothing approach.
"We have to be careful not to confuse passing resolutions for action, or creating a situation where people interpret the lack of some resolution as an excuse for inaction on an important issue," he said.
Historically, the RNC's sole job has been to raise money for candidates and to pass the party line down the food chain to state and local leaders. Policy has been set by the party's congressional leaders and, when a Republican sits in the White House, by the president.
The same has been true for the Democratic National Committee.
The Bopp-Yue vanguard say they are determined to change that.
"For the past eight years, the RNC has been the political outreach of the White House," said Arizona GOP Chairman Randy Pullen, another resolution cosponsor who led the 2006 immigration fight and who opposed Mr. Bush's "economic policies promoting the 'ownership society' because they would eventually lead to the financial meltdown we are currently experiencing."
"It is now time for the RNC to assert itself in terms of ideas and political philosophy," Mr. Pullen added. "If we don't do it now, when will we?"
Mr. Bopp, a social conservative who has served as counsel to pro-life groups, said, "We must stand for and publicly advocate our conservative principles as a party 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year."
The RNC revolutionaries leave no doubt they mean to turn the committee into policy-producing and enforcing machine.
"In the long-run, we want to see this committee play an active philosophical-policy leadership role for the national GOP," Mr. Yue said.
But it remains unclear whether there exist the rules or the machinery for enforcing such a resolution on Republican elected officials.