GOP de­tails ‘Pledge’ to vot­ers

House mem­bers vow to seek tax and bud­get cuts, the health­care law’s re­peal and more.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Michael A. Me­moli and Lisa Mas­caro re­port­ing from washington

Draw­ing on ideas fa­vored by con­ser­va­tives and stoked by “tea party” ac­tivists, House Repub­li­cans will un­de­bate veil a man­i­festo Thurs­day that calls for cuts in govern­ment spend­ing, re­peal of the new health­care law and a strict con­sti­tu­tional test for ev­ery pro­posed law, ac­cord­ing to a draft.

The 21-page blue­print, called “A Pledge to Amer­ica,” of­fers the most de­tailed pic­ture yet of how Repub­li­cans plan to ad­dress na­tional is­sues if they win a ma­jor­ity in the House in Novem­ber, which prog­nos­ti­ca­tors say is in­creas­ingly likely.

The GOP plan ig­nited a within con­ser­va­tive cir­cles. Es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans em­braced the agenda, but ac­tivists com­plained that it did not go far enough and omit­ted some of their key de­mands, such as a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The plan treads lightly on hot-but­ton so­cial is­sues such as mar­riage and abor­tion that have been main­stays of past GOP agen­das but are less likely than eco­nomic ques­tions to mo­ti­vate in­de­pen­dent vot­ers this fall.

The pledge con­tains no men­tion of pro­pos­als by lead­ing con­ser­va­tives and sev­eral GOP can­di­dates to re­struc­ture So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care by us­ing per­sonal sav­ings ac­counts, nor of other mea­sures that vot­ers have re­sisted.

But like the 1994 “Con­tract with Amer­ica,” re­leased weeks be­fore that year’s midterm elec­tion swept Repub­li­cans to power, the 2010 man­i­festo is ex­pected to pro­vide a cam-

paign plat­form to make the case that Repub­li­cans are ready to gov­ern.

The White House sought to un­der­cut the GOP roll­out. Speak­ing at a fundraiser for con­gres­sional Democrats on Wed­nes­day night in New York, Pres­i­dent Obama said Repub­li­cans had ig­nored an idea pop­u­lar with Amer­i­cans who weighed in on the GOP’s own “Amer­ica Speak­ing Out” web­site: end­ing tax breaks for cor­po­ra­tions that ship jobs over­seas.

The pro­pos­als, the pres­i­dent said, mask the Repub­li­can Party’s in­tent to re­turn to the “ex­act same agenda” they pur­sued un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

The top Repub­li­can pro­posal is a fa­mil­iar one: “Per­ma­nently stop all job-killing tax hikes” by ex­tend­ing the tax cuts en­acted dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion that are set to ex­pire in De­cem­ber. The White House wants to ex­tend the re­duced rates only for fam­i­lies earn­ing less than $250,000 a year and in­di­vid­u­als mak­ing less than $200,000, whereas Repub­li­cans want to ex­tend them to higher-wage tax­pay­ers as well.

Ex­tend­ing the tax cuts across the board would cost nearly $4 tril­lion over 10 years, ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sional es­ti­mates. Elim­i­nat­ing the rates for the wealthy re­duces the tab by about $700 bil­lion.

In tak­ing aim at what Repub­li­cans call “Washington’s out-of-con­trol spend­ing spree,” the plan ad­vo­cates rolling back most fed­eral spend­ing to 2008 lev­els to save $100 bil­lion, im­pos­ing a new cap on dis­cre­tionary spend­ing, and halt­ing govern­ment hir­ing for non­se­cu­rity em­ploy­ees.

On that is­sue, the party’s con­ser­va­tive flank parted ways with the pledge, say­ing House Repub­li­cans sim­ply re­cy­cled prom­ises that the party broke when it was in con­trol and failed to tackle the tough de­ci­sions needed to limit govern­ment.

“Like a diet full of sugar, it will ac­tu­ally do noth­ing but keep mak­ing Washington fat­ter be­fore we crash from the sugar high,” said Erik Erik­son of the blog Red­State.

Erik­son noted that the plan did not call for a spend­ing lim­i­ta­tion amend­ment or a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment.

“It is just mean­ing­less stuff,” Erik­son wrote, call­ing the pro­pos­als “an il­lu­sion” that avoids real ac­tion against the size and scope of govern­ment.

But the in­flu­en­tial con­ser­va­tive mag­a­zine Na­tional Re­view called the pledge a “shrewd” piece of work that would be dif­fi­cult for Democrats to counter.

“It will help tremen­dously with in­de­pen­dents who have been turned off by Democrats but [who] re­ally needed an al­ter­na­tive GOP plat­form to sup­port,” GOP strate­gist Ron Bon­jean said.

Repub­li­cans promised to “re­peal and re­place” the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment, the health­care law. Reintroducing past GOP pro­pos­als, they would al­low con­sumers to pur­chase health in­surance across state lines, ex­pand per­sonal health sav­ings ac­counts, and pro­hibit govern­ment spend­ing on abor­tion by per­ma­nently en­act­ing the so-called Hyde Amend­ment.

One of the few ref­er­ences to so­cial is­sues is in an open­ing vow “to honor fam­i­lies, tra­di­tional mar­riage, life, and the pri­vate and faith­based or­ga­ni­za­tions that form the core of our Amer­i­can val­ues.”

The plan pro­poses beef­ing up border se­cu­rity to fight il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, an­other con­tentious is­sue that has en­er­gized the party’s base but is only ad­dressed in broad terms.

In one of the most sig­nif­i­cant signs of tea party in­flu­ence, Repub­li­cans pro­pose that any bill mov­ing through Congress “in­clude a clause cit­ing the spe­cific con­sti­tu­tional author­ity upon which the bill is jus­ti­fied.” The party blames costly pro­grams on a “lack of re­spect” for con­straints on govern­ment out­lined in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

On for­eign pol­icy, the plan calls for fully fund­ing the mis­sile de­fense sys­tem, en­forc­ing tough sanc­tions on Iran and keep­ing ter­ror­ism sus­pects at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama has can­celed a ma­jor mis­sile de­fense pro­gram and wants to close Guan­tanamo.

The long-ex­pected GOP plan will be re­leased af­ter a roundtable at a fam­ily owned busi­ness in Ster­ling, Va. It was crafted af­ter sev­eral months of con­sul­ta­tion with vot­ers.

“We put thought into this,” said Rep. Pete Ses­sions of Texas, the chair­man of the Repub­li­can cam­paign com­mit­tee. ”What we’re try­ing to do is point out ideas that Amer­i­cans fully sup­port, and view as Amer­i­can ideas that should not be lost.”

Un­like the 1994 “Con­tract with Amer­ica,” which was es­sen­tially a 10-point to-do list, rank-and-file law­mak­ers saw in this doc­u­ment a broader gov­ern­ing strat­egy they could use on the cam­paign trail.

“It’s got some real meat on it,” said Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz (R-Utah), who noted sim­ple prom­ises like one to post bills on­line for three days be­fore vot­ing. “It’s a re­flec­tion that we’ve been lis­ten­ing.”

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