By Paul Kane and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 6:17 PM
House Republicans will unveil a sweeping "Pledge to America" on Thursday that proposes reining in the size of the federal government and deficit, charting a conservative agenda that illustrates how they would govern if voters give them a congressional majority in pivotal midterm elections.
After enduring "party-of-no" insults from President Obama and Democrats for many months, House Republicans are offering a collection of conservative ideas, including freezing government spending and replacing the president's sweeping health-care legislation with a scaled-back version allowing for the purchase of health plans across state lines.
Officially described as a governing agenda, the "Pledge" unofficially is meant to give Republican candidates forward-looking ideas to choose from in their fall campaigns for elections barely five weeks away.
"The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated," Republicans write in the "Pledge," according to a draft document that is being reviewed by GOP lawmakers in a private huddle Wednesday night.
The formal unveiling will come 10 a.m. Thursday at a hardware store just outside the Beltway in Sterling.
Highlights of the plan include:
• Requiring all bills to be posted online three days before votes and requiring legislation to cite the constitutional authority for the new law;
• Holding the trials of detainees from Guantanomo Bay, Cuba, outside the United States.
• Reducing federal spending to fiscal 2008 levels, except for national security.
The 21-page document is meant in part to echo the GOP's 1994 "Contract with America," a 10-point agenda unveiled at the same point in the election season before the party gained control of Congress in that year's midterms. But it is also an effort to signal that a new generation of Republicans is ready to lead.
Party leaders tapped Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), a second-term lawmaker who never served in the previous GOP majority, to craft it in the spring.
Democrats rejected the proposal as a rehash of ideas that Republicans first implemented during the George W. Bush administration, a theme that they have repeated throughout the congressional campaigns this year. They argue that if Republicans take the majority, they would return to Bush-era policies.
"Congressional Republicans are pledging to ship jobs overseas; blow a $700 billion hole in the deficit to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires; turn Social Security from a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble; once again, subject American families to the recklessness of Wall Street; and take away patients' rights," Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in a statement Wednesday.