Correction to This Article
This article about Senate Democrats' rethinking of a planned showdown with Republicans over the extension of Bush-era tax cuts incorrectly said that President Obama wants to extend the cuts only for households with incomes under $250,000 a year. The Obama plan would preserve the cuts on the first $250,000 in income for couples filing jointly and the first $200,000 for individuals, even if filers' total incomes are higher.

GOP's agenda aims to shrink government

By Paul Kane and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 23, 2010

House Republicans will announce an expansive agenda on Thursday called "A Pledge to America" that proposes to shrink the size of government and reform Congress, offering a conservative plan of action they will pursue if they win a majority in the midterm elections.

Republicans would slash $100 billion in government spending on nonmilitary agencies and replace President Obama's landmark health-care legislation with a scaled-back version. Small businesses would be able to deduct from taxes up to 20 percent of their annual income, and the Pentagon would receive increased funding to more quickly implement a ballistic missile defense system.

The plan would also eliminate any unspent money from last year's $814 billion stimulus package and from legislation that authorized hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up failing Wall Street firms.

There are no specifics about how the spending cuts would be carried out, and the agenda does not outline how Republicans would deal with Social Security and other expensive federal entitlement programs, saying only that lawmakers "will make the decisions that are necessary" to cut costs.

The agenda is designed to give voters a broad outline of what proposals House Republicans will push if they regain the majority and to give their candidates specifics to cite on the campaign trail. It also aims to answer a favorite attack line of Democrats: that Republicans have no new ideas and are merely the "party of no."

"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 released Wednesday night.

The proposals, many of which would face high hurdles to becoming law, even if Republicans claimed the majority, include some provisions meant to appeal to conservative activists who have led the anti-establishment tea party movement. Those include internal rule changes that would require all bills to be posted online three days before votes are taken and mandate that legislation cite the constitutional authority behind it.

In a political climate that favors Republicans, some GOP strategists cautioned against releasing any agenda, reasoning that it would just give Democrats something to criticize.

But House Minority Leader John A. Boehner's leadership team thought they needed to show that Republicans are prepared to govern and adopted what they call an 80-20 approach, expecting 80 percent of the campaign to be a negative contrast with Democrats and 20 percent to be focused on Republican ideas.

Democrats rejected the new agenda as a rehash of ideas that Republicans first implemented during the George W. Bush administration, a theme they have repeated throughout congressional campaigns this year.

"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," Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in a statement Wednesday.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that, "instead of charting a new course, Congressional Republicans doubled down on the same ideas that hurt America's middle class."

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