House Republicans make a conservative 'Pledge to America'

Want to know what the GOP would do if it wins control of the House? House Republicans rolled out their 21-page policy agenda Thursday at a hardware store in Sterling, Va.
By Paul Kane and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 23, 2010; 11:00 AM

House Republicans on Thursday announced an expansive agenda 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.

In a series of speeches at a hardware store in Sterling, Va., the GOP members of Congress attacked key elements of President Obama's domestic agenda and promised, among other things, to work for the repeal of his landmark health-care legislation and the permanent extension of tax cuts passed under the George W. Bush administration.

They also called for the honoring of "traditional marriage" and an end to "federal funding for abortion."

Answering questions after the speeches, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) described the pledge broadly as an effort to restore "fiscal sanity" to Washington. He said Republicans are promising to put the nation on a path to a balanced budget and to paying down the national debt.

"The federal government is too big, it spends too much, and it's out of control" Boehner said. He acknowledged that "when Republicans were in charge of Congress" during the Bush years, "we made our fair share of mistakes." But now, he said, after listening to the American people for the past 20 months, "we get it, we get it."

Under their plan, Republicans would slash $100 billion in government spending on nonmilitary agencies and replace 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.

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