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House Republicans offer ‘Pledge’ contract
Fighting back against the Democrats' charge that they are the "party of no," House Republicans on Thursday sought to become the party of "No, but" by offering a broad blueprint for spending cuts and government rollbacks ahead of the November midterm elections.
Tackling what they saw as the excesses of President Obama, House Republicans pledged to go the other direction on just about every move the administration has made, from repealing the new health care law to cutting spending back to pre-Obama levels to leaving taxes at their level under President George W. Bush.
"You cried, 'Stop,' but the Democratic majority in Washington has refused to listen. We are here today to tell you we have been listening and we heard you. We heard you loud and clear," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and the man House Republicans tapped to write their "Pledge to America."
Among the dozens of proposals are calls to cut lawmakers' own budgets, to impose binding caps on federal spending, to cut taxes for small businesses, to aid states that are trying to enforce immigration laws, to open up the legislative process in the House, and to repeal the health care law while offering up alternative proposals to try to force lower medical and insurance costs.
The pledge quickly drew support from across the GOP establishment, including Senate leaders and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association. But it's been panned by some conservative critics who said it doesn't go far enough or include enough specific new proposals.
Democrats, meanwhile, said the pledge amounts to a return to Bush-era policies that aided businesses at the expense of average voters.
"Whatever the Republicans may call [it], their plan, if implemented, would inflict a 'plague on Americans,'" said Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat.
The move by Republican leaders brings political risks. In an election that had been shaping up mostly as a referendum on Mr. Obama's first two years in office, the GOP now has given Democrats an alternative target to shoot at.
But House Republican leaders, who announced their agenda at a lumber company in Sterling, Va., said they wanted to give voters a yardstick to measure them by. They also hoped the pledge would do much to erase lingering doubts about Republicans' stewardship when they held both Congress and the White House for half of the past decade.
The leaders acknowledged they do not tackle the specifics of addressing entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which analysts say are the main drivers of spending increases.
But Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said his party is committed to the steps that can be taken now, and said Republicans will have to await an "adult conversation" with voters to tackle the large questions.
"I don't have all of the solutions, but I believe if we work with the American people, the American people will want to work with us," he said.
Mr. Obama already has called for that sort of conversation and, through executive order, created a deficit commission tasked with trying to come up with agreement on options lawmakers could take.
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