In Sterling, VA, House Republicans this morning will unveil their governing blueprint if they win back the majority in November. It’s called “A Pledge to America,” but it really isn’t a call to revolutionize the way Congress does business like the GOP’s “Contract with America” did in 1994. Rather, the “Pledge” is a laundry list of priorities.
The 21-page document contains five plans: on jobs and the economy (make the Bush tax cuts permanent, give small businesses a tax deduction, require congressional approval of new federal regulations that cost $100 million or more); on government spending (cut government spending to its 2008 level, cap new discretionary spending, cut Congress’ budget, freeze the hiring of non-security federal workers; hold WEEKLY spending cut votes); on health care (repeal the health-care law, enact medical malpractice reform, ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions); on reforming Congress (post the text of any legislation online at least three days before coming up for a vote, end the practice of attaching non-germane bills to must-pass legislation; provide in EVERY bill the specific Constitutional provision); and on national security (fully fund missile defense, require tough sanctions against Iran, and enforce the border).
But the GOP’s blueprint also contains obvious contradictions. How can the GOP claim to have new ideas when its first policy proposal is making the Bush tax cuts permanent? How does it reduce the deficit if you make those tax cuts permanent? Why work to ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions if you repeal a law that already does that? Why push for tax cuts for small businesses when your party has opposed similar cuts that Democrats have offered? (Indeed, will House Republicans today vote for that Democratic measure?) And then there’s this: The document makes absolutely no mention about what to do regarding the war in Afghanistan. (It does talk about Iran and lumps immigration in their national security section). It also ignores what to do about Social Security and Medicare. And how do you truly address cutting government spending if you ignore Social Security and Medicare?
The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt — but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to "greater liberty" and then, in the next, that it will protect "traditional marriage." It says that "small business must have certainty that the rules won't change every few months" and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong — debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government — and a solid promise to make most of it worse.
It's not exactly bold or new, and some conservatives are panning it:
These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things, but mostly this: it is a serious 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.
Yes, yes, it is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high.
It is dreck — dreck with some stuff I like, but like Brussels sprouts in butter. I like the butter, not the Brussels sprouts. Overall, this grand illusion of an agenda that will never happen is best spoken of today and then never again as if it did not happen. It is best forgotten.
The pledge begins by lamenting “an arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites” issuing “mandates”, then proceeds to demand health care mandates on insurance companies that will drive up the costs of health care for ordinary Americans.
The plan wants to put “government on the path to a balanced budget” without doing anything substantive. There is a promise to “immediately reduce spending” by cutting off stimulus funds. Wow. Exciting.
There is a plan to cut Congress’s budget, which is pretty much what was promised in 1994. Seriously? In 4 years did the Democrats really blow up the Congressional budget? No — the GOP did that too.
There is no call for a Spending Limitation Amendment or a Balanced Budget Amendment. It is just meaningless stuff the Democrats can easily undo and that ultimately the Senate GOP will even turn its nose up at.
The entirety of this Promise is laughable. Why? It is an illusion that fixates on stuff the GOP already should be doing while not daring to touch on stuff that will have any meaningful longterm effects on the size and scope of the federal government.
This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy. All the good stuff in it is stuff we expect them to do. What is not in it is more than a little telling that the House GOP has not learned much of anything from 2006.
It doesn't help that the Pledge was apparently put together under the auspices of one Brian Wild “a House staffer who, up till April 2010, served as a lobbyist for some of the nation’s most powerful oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies.”
Anyway, the pledge: