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Some Republicans want a new 'Contract with America' for midterms. Here's why that won't work

Conservative Review

Panic is setting in for congressional Republicans. With fewer than eight weeks until the midterm elections in November and the polling increasingly looking like Democrats will assume control of Congress, Republicans are reportedly poll-testing a new strategy to rebrand the GOP agenda for the fall. Seth McLaughlin reports for the Washington Times that Republicans are asking voters if they would support a "Contract with America-style agenda" to give the American people an idea of what they'll get for their vote come next year.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is urging Republicans to adopt this strategy and nationalize the midterm House races with a broad agenda, much the same way he did in the 1994 "Republican Revolution" that wrested control of the House from Democrats for the first time in decades. “I think there is a lot of interest in trying to figure out how we can focus our message and how we can maximize the impact of what we are accomplishing and draw a contrast with the left,” Gingrich told the Washington Times.

That's not going to work, and the reason is simple: Republicans broke the promises made in their last "Pledge to America."

In 2010, Republicans were in the minority, campaigning to recapture the House of Representatives. They saw the strength of the emergent Tea Party movement and believed they could organize this movement to win the midterm elections in President Barack Obama's first term. To do it, then-minority leader John Boehner ordered Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to draft a "Pledge to America," riffing on Gingrich's "contract" and outlining several things Republicans would do if they regained the House majority. McCarthy is now the GOP majority leader, and he wants to be the next speaker of the House.

These were the promises that became part of the pledge:

  • Extending the temporary tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 for all taxpayers.
  • A tax deduction for small businesses on up to 20 percent of their business income.
  • A requirement of congressional approval for any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to the economy of $100 million or more.
  • Canceling unspent funds from the 2009 fiscal stimulus.
  • Rolling back government spending to 2008 levels, to save $100 billion while exempting "seniors, veterans, and our troops" from cuts.
  • Creating "strict budget caps" on discretionary spending.
  • Holding weekly votes on spending cuts.
  • A hiring freeze on all federal agencies except those necessary to national security.
  • A repeal of the 2010 health care reform bill, Obamacare.
  • Reform of medical liability and health insurance practices.
  • Passing clean troop funding bills without ties to domestic spending.
  • A permanent ban on any federal funding for abortion.
  • Establishing "operational control of the border."
  • A requirement that Congress post all bills online three days before a vote.
  • A requirement that lawmakers cite the specific constitutional authority that enables a piece of legislation.

Now ask yourself, eight years later, with full Republican control of government, which of these promises were kept and are now law? Tax cuts are one promise kept. But Obamacare was not repealed. Planned Parenthood receives taxpayer funds. Federal spending is still breaking records. The budget caps were busted. Military spending is still held hostage by being tied to increases in domestic spending. Congress still passes bills no one reads without posting the text three days before a vote. And what lawmaker cites the Constitution in the bills he or she proposes?

When Republicans debuted their "Pledge to America," conservatives praised their commitments. "The pledge commits Republicans to working toward a broad conservative agenda that, if implemented, would make the federal government significantly smaller, Congress more accountable, and America more prosperous," National Review wrote.

The agenda was not implemented. The pledge was broken. Now Republicans seem set to lose their House majority after squandering the opportunity voters gave them. So another list of empty promises won't save the Republican Party in midterm elections.

Republican leadership seems to recognize this; reportedly, leaders are reluctant to try another Contract with America-style pledge. "Top Republican aides" told the Times they are "more focused on touting their accomplishments over the past 20 months: tax cuts, a massive infusion of cash for the Pentagon and rolling back Obama-era policies." But those "accomplishments" pale in comparison to the promises that were made. They are not enough to energize conservatives to vote.

What can save the GOP is action. Now. Start keeping those promises you made. Use the September spending deadline and the DHS funding bill to start keeping promises like securing the border. Force the Democrats into a corner on immigration. Demonstrate to the American people that Republicans are willing to fight for the promises they made with the majorities they hold.

It may be too late to save the GOP. There may be too many broken promises to make a comeback now. But better to try than to sit back and watch Democrats and socialists take control of Congress without putting up a fight.

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