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1 Republicans Unveil 'Pledge to America' on Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:43 pm

rosco 357


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STERLING, Va.-- Far from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, 13 Republican members of Congress gathered Thursday at Tart Lumber Co. to unveil "Pledge to America," a 45-page booklet they promise will guide their efforts to reform the government Americans say they no longer trust.

House Minority Leader John Boehner stood in shirt-sleeves between rows of raw lumber to explain that the pledge was drafted by listening to the American people and reflected their number one priority -- jump-starting the American economy.

"Our pledge to America is that Republicans stand ready to get it done, beginning today," Boehner said.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Cali.), the man who led the effort to draft the Pledge, said he blamed the Obama administration's "disastrous policies" for the country's current economic struggles.

"The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity," he said. "From the bill to bailout the banks to the stimulus that failed to stimulate anything but the deficit to the government takeover over health care, [the American people] said stop. Well, we heard you, we heard you loud and clear."

Unlike Republicans' 1994 Contract With America, no candidates or members of Congress will sign the Pledge and no group will march up the Capitol steps to support it. And while the 1994 Contract aggressively promised to enact term limits, amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget and cut off welfare payments to teen moms, the 2010 document softens the tone and broadens the focus to include familiar GOP proposals on health care, national security and shrinking the size of federal government.

Boehner explained that the Pledge covered five areas -- jobs and the economy, lowering government spending and reducing the size of government, repealing the recently passed health care law, reforming Congress, and strengthening national security.

In each area, the GOP makes several specific policy proposals. Under spending and taxes, for example, the document proposes a ban on future tax hikes and a freeze on federal spending at 2008 levels. To reform Congress, Republicans say they will cut Congress' budget and will require a citation within every proposal to the language in the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to enact the law. To rein in the size of the government, they would impose a federal hiring freeze.

While the document is heavy on economic themes, it is decidedly light on social issues, which literally fall to the back of the line. A proposal to permanently end federal funding for abortion is listed last under the health care proposals, while enforcing immigration laws and strengthening American borders are mentioned only at the end of the portion on national security.

Even as Republicans released their document Thursday morning, Democrats called it nothing more than a repackaging of the same policies Republicans have pitched for years.

"We have seen this movie before and the American people walked out on it," said Doug Thornell, a senior adviser to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "We don't need a sequel."

Conservatives were also quick to blast the pledge as insufficiently bold, pointing to the fact that the document does not call for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and makes no mention of what should be done about the 12.5 million illegal immigrants now in the country.

"It is a [series] of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama," Erik Erikson wrote at RedState.com.

Ryan Hecker, a Houston lawyer who was the impetus behind a Tea Party-backed document called the Contract From America, said that even though some of the items in the new Pledge are identical to parts of the Contract From America, Republicans in Washington cannot assume that releasing a set of promises will automatically win over Tea Party activists.

"They have to build legitimacy -- they don't have legitimacy right now," Hecker said of the Republican leadership. "They are the same Republicans, in many cases, who voted for TARP and did not put forth real conservative solutions over the course of six years when we had the presidency and both houses of Congress."

Boehner defended the document as Republicans' proposals for what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should do before the end of the year, not a long-term governing agenda.

"It's not intended to be a party platform. It's not intended to cover everything under the sun," Boehner said. "It's what the American people are telling us right now."

James Gimpel, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland who wrote "Legislating the Revolution: The Contract With America in its First 100 Days," said that the Republicans' pledge today differs from the 1994 Contract With America in two important ways.

"Obviously, the biggest difference is the Republicans haven't been out of the majority for 40 years. It hasn't been that long since they were in control," he said. "The second-biggest difference is that they unveiled the Contract With America in 1994 not really believing that they would be taking the majority. Now, a sizable number of people think they will win at least the House. It makes them much more risk averse than they were then."

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