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Republicans launch their 'Pledge to America'

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-09-23 at 20.34.13 It's not a revolutionary document but today the Republicans - accused by Democrats of being the 'party of no' - have launched their 21-page agenda.

In terms of practicalities the Pledge contains five main themes:
  • "A plan to create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive" including stopping the tax rises that Obama has scheduled for 1st January 2011 and Congressional approval for all regulations that would cost $100m US-wide.
  • "A plan to stop out-of-control spending and reduce the size of government" including cancellation of all unspent stimulus monies and $100bn of immediate cuts as a stepping stone to take federal spending back to when Obama was elected.
  • "A plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care" including new measures covering Medical Liability; allowing people to purchase health across state lines and expansion of Health Saving Accounts for the otherwise uninsured.
  • "A plan to reform Congress and restore trust" including extended times for legislation to be properly considered.
  • "A plan to keep our nation secure at home and abroad" including military trials of terrorist suspects, full funding of missile defence, tough sanctions against Iran and stronger border controls.

How are the commentators reacting? Here are five quick verdicts:

Ross Douthat thinks the Pledge is all about undoing Obama: "Its most substantive promises — indeed, nearly all of its substantive promises — involve the rollback of the Obama agenda: The health care bill will be repealed, discretionary spending (“with common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops”) will go back to pre-stimulus levels, the Bush tax cuts will be renewed rather than amended or eliminated, etc. Given the public’s provisional verdict on the Obama era, this kind of emphasis no doubt makes political sense."

Reihan Salam sees it as a very conservative document: "The Pledge reflects a number of long-held conservative priorities: to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s new health law, to reduce federal spending to 2008 levels, to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and to reduce the size of the federal deficit more quickly and more aggressively than the Democrats."

Frum-David David Frum sees it as much more cautious than the agenda of the Tea Party Movement: "The “Pledge to America” is a repudiation of the central, foundational idea behind the Tea Party. Tea Party activists have been claiming all year that there exists in the United States a potential voting majority for radically more limited government. The Republican “Pledge to America” declares: Sorry, we don’t believe that. We shall cut spending where we can – reform the legislative process in important ways – and sever the federal guarantee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans will redirect the federal government to a new path that is less expensive and intrusive than the status quo. But if you want promises of radical change? No. Too risky."

[ConservativeHome's Ten Point Guide To The Tea Party Movement From Last Saturday].

Philip Klein thinks it doesn't answer America's long-term challenges: "The most egregious problem with this "Pledge" is that it's a slap in the face to the youth of America. While it proposes ideas such as rolling back discretionary spending to 2008 levels, it completely avoids any concrete proposals on the biggest threat facing America: our looming entitlement crisis. Instead, the document reads: "We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing them regularly, and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities." So in other words: "trust us." This coming from the party that added trillions to our long-term deficits by enacting the Medicare prescription drug plan."

Yuval Levin welcomes the commitment to end taxpayer funding of abortion: "The first thing that strikes me (especially in comparing this Pledge to the Contract With America) is how much progress pro-lifers have made both in the arena of public opinion and the intra-Republican debate on the abortion question. The Contract avoided the subject like the plague. This document speaks plainly of a commitment to human life several times, lists abortion funding as a key reason for repealing Obamacare, and promises a government-wide Hyde Amendment."

On the back of independent voters and an energised base, opinion polls currently say the GOP has a good chance of overturning Obama's majority in the House of Representatives. Winning control of the Senate is possible but a much taller order.


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