Hoping that history will repeat itself, House Republicans unveiled today “A Pledge to America,â€ a legislative blueprint that they would use to shrink and reform government should they win the majority in November. It is reminiscent of the “Contract with Americaâ€ that House Republicans, led by Rep. Newt Gingrich, released in 1994 that helped them gain control during President Bill Clinton’s second year in the White House.
“We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity,â€ the pledge reads. “We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.â€
The document was rolled out at a lumber store located about 30 miles from Capitol Hill. In it, Republicans vow to cut taxes and spending and put the federal government on a “pathâ€ to a balanced budget. They would cancel unspent stimulus funds and cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“Our pledge honors our founding principles, lays out meaningful policy prescriptions, and narrows its focus to those core issues on the minds of American families,â€ Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said at the event. “We understand that people are looking for job creation, spending restraint, and a Congress that works on behalf of their priorities. Our agenda is a clear statement that Republicans are listening and have solutions to turn a nation and a government toward a better future.â€
The document also says that they would repeal the healthcare reform legislation and enact medical liability reform. The document does not, however, offer any specifics regarding Social Security and other entitlements that account for a significant portion of the nation’s enormous deficit.
Democrats were quick to condemn the document, charging that it simply recycles old ideas, such as a proposal to privatize Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
“I think the pledge is a very sad attempt by a party with no new ideas to regurgitate the old ‘Contract with America.’ They’re trying to capitalize on the anxiety that naturally accompanies change,â€ said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). Using the healthcare reform bill as an example, he said that it’s only natural for people to feel anxious as they try to figure out how the legislation will affect them personally. But Republicans, Ellison said, “are hoping to capitalize on people’s fear and anxiety of the unknown, and get people to give up benefits that they’ve been able to secure for themselves.â€ He also said that GOP lawmakers essentially squandered the opportunity to affect the sorts of reforms their document proposes.
“They did worse than nothing, they did harm,â€ he said.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Alabama) said that Republicans clearly plan to use the pledge to make the fall election a referendum on the Obama administration’s first two years and the Democrat-controlled congress. He noted that it’s too early to tell how effective the pledge will actually be, and that while it may currently seem like Republicans are headed toward a takeover in November, a lot could change in the next six weeks.
“Whatever happens on Nov. 2nd, there’s not going to be a veto-proof majority and it’s not as if Republican policies are going to be enacted into law,â€ Davis said. “The consequence will be two years of absolute gridlock in Washington. That’s what’s at stake in this election. It’s will is that there be gridlock or at least some opportunity for compromise and passing some legislation.â€