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House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio holds a copy of the "Pledge To America" plan while flanked by members of Congress and small-business owners Thursday at Tart Lumber in Sterling, Va.
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio holds a copy of the "Pledge To America" plan while flanked by members of Congress and small-business owners Thursday at Tart Lumber in Sterling, Va. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
House Republicans unveiled their "Pledge To America" on Thursday, a campaign blueprint that lays out the party's agenda and promises to reverse a number of Obama administration initiatives, including the health care overhaul, while enacting new tax and spending cuts.
The 20-odd page document — an echo of the 1994 "Contract with America" that helped Republicans retake the House — opens with lofty quotations from the Declaration of Independence and concludes with a promise to begin "a new governing agenda that honors our Constitution and reflects the will of the people."
At a hardware store in Sterling, Va., senior House Republicans in shirt sleeves showed off the document they say will be their guide should they win a majority in the November elections.
"The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. ... Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California declared. "We will take back our country. We will restore for a better future. This is our pledge to you."
Republicans want to capitalize on polls indicating voter disenchantment with President Obama. They hope a clear statement of their principles will counter Democratic criticism of the GOP as the "party of 'no' " and pick up enough seats to take control of the House and possibly the Senate.
In language clearly targeting the White House and for the benefit of libertarian-leaning Tea Party activists — whose votes Republicans are banking on — the document refers to an "arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites [that] makes decisions, issues mandates and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many."
Create jobs, end economic uncertainty and increase American competitiveness
- "Permanently" stop tax hikes on families and small businesses.
- Give small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income.
- Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that adds to deficits or makes it harder to create jobs.
- Repeal health care mandates on small businesses.
- "With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops," roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.
- Place caps on government spending.
- Impose a hiring freeze for non-security-related federal positions.
- Cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Repeal and replace the health care overhaul
- Enact "real medical liability reform."
- Allow purchase of health care across state lines.
- Require that every bill contain a citation of "constitutional authority."
- Give all representatives and citizens at least three days to read a bill before a vote.
Maintain security at home and abroad
- Provide resources, authority, and support to deployed forces.
- Fully fund missile defense.
- Enforce sanctions against Iran.
- Keep enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay.
- Secure U.S. borders.
"The governed do not consent," the document states.
The "Pledge To America" is filled with proposals to slash taxes and spending, limit government regulation and end Obama's economic stimulus program. It also promises to repeal the health care overhaul — Democrats' single biggest legislative victory in a term that saw many of their proposals blocked by Republicans.
"We will repeal the health care and then we will replace it," McCarthy later told NPR's Robert Siegel. "We say why don’t we do tort reform? That’s the No. 1 factor when it comes to the rising cost of health care."
Specifically, the blueprint calls for giving small businesses a tax cut equivalent to 20 percent of their income and would roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels. It also calls for a federal hiring freeze for all but security-related positions and promises to keep open Guantanamo Bay and not allow terrorism suspects to be processed through the civilian courts and prison systems.
"The Pledge To America is items we can do right now before we leave Congress," McCarthy told Siegel. "It is a jobs plan."
For their part, Democrats dismissed the GOP plan as recycled ideas that would further exacerbate the nation's problems.
"Republicans want to return to the same failed economic policies that hurt millions of Americans and threatened our economy," said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The plan steers clear of hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage and climate change and offers no specific solutions to address looming shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, which account for a huge portion of the nation's soaring deficit. Instead, it calls for a "full accounting" of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and pledges to "make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs."
Nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed expressed disapproval of Republicans compared with 60 percent of Democrats.
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, head of the Republicans' House campaign committee, said the pledge was drafted to answer the public's skepticism about government and give it a "deliverable."
"A number of people are very cynical about the reliability and the sincerity of either party," Sessions said. "We've put things on a sheet of paper."
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report