The House Republicans aiming to force a 1994 repeat and win control of Congress cast aside their ties yesterday to “pledge to America” what they’d do if they win. It’s no surprise the Democrats trashed the plan, but some conservatives don’t like it one bit either.
The 21-page Republican agenda, summarized blandly by the Associated Press, is “filled with familiar proposals to slash taxes and spending and cut down on government regulation, as well as repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law and end his stimulus program.” But it “steers clear of specifics” on budget issues, offering only “a vague promise” about entitlement spending. That’s the neutral wire service take, but many conservatives seem to agree.
TPM rounded up the top five most surprising reactions to the Republican agenda.
1. Newt Gingrich
Remember him? The architect of the 1994 Contract with America? Well he said yesterday that overall, he likes the “pledge.” But it’s not perfect. Gingrich told the Daily Caller the new Republican agenda “is a significant boost for them, but it is not a homerun.”
He said it shouldn’t be compared to his contract, since the “pledge” is a more sobering document because the nation is in such a bad state of affairs.
2. Club for Growth
The conservative group that has gotten into the business of purging RINOs from the Republican party didn’t seem to like the pledge.
In a blog post yesterday, Andrew Roth trashed Republicans as drafting a “weak” agenda, “silent” on earmarks and a balanced budget amendment, two core principles of fiscal conservatism. (And the earmarks thing is a little strange, given that the GOP already swore off them this year.)
“The Pledge has no teeth,” Roth wrote. “Voters have no reliable assurances that House Republicans will behave appropriately.”
And more, a quote that’s making the rounds from the Democrats eager to paint the GOP as divided:
I want to endorse it, but it’s so milquetoast that it proves to me that these guys just aren’t ready to lead.
3. Erick Erickson
Erickson, the überconservative editor of RedState.com, called the pledge “ridiculous,” and “laughable.” He gave it an A-plus for rhetoric and a C-minus for ideas and said he wouldn’t carry the GOP’s “stagnant water” even though he’ll vote for the Republicans in November.
These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things, but mostly this: it is a serious [sic.] of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama.
I have one message for John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the House GOP Leadership: If they do not want to use the GOP to lead, I would like to borrow it for a time.
Yes, yes, it is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high.
It is dreck — dreck with some stuff I like, but like Brussels sprouts in butter. I like the butter, not the Brussels sprouts. Overall, this grand illusion of an agenda that will never happen is best spoken of today and then never again as if it did not happen. It is best forgotten.
Other RedStaters called it the “Pledge to Nowhere.”
4. Neal Boortz
Boortz, the Libertarian radio host, said yesterday on Fox News he doesn’t believe “this is going to work out too well” because Republicans aren’t addressing major issues now that the focus is on them.
“Up until right now, the focus was on the absolute disaster that is Democratic rule in Washington. Now, all of a sudden, the focus is on the Republican party,” Boortz said. “Where’s the word “tax reform” in this document? It’s not there. Where’s the phrase ‘corporate income tax.’ It’s not there. Where is the Department of Education? It’s not there.”
5. GOP Candidates?!
Remember that day in 1994 when the leadership stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to present the Contract with America, and every single House candidate signed it? Yeah, well, that didn’t happen yesterday. The GOP’s candidates weren’t even invited to the event in Sterling, Virginia. The National Republican Congressional Committee wasn’t part of drafting the agenda.
Politico reported the reaction from candidates — few who even put out statements about the “pledge” — was “tepid.”
From the story:
Jackie Walorski, a challenger to Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), hoped that the glancing mention of social issues was only a “starting point.”
Having “a base to jump from is far better than not having a place at the table at all,” she added.
The story also quotes GOP candidate Ed Martin, challenging Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO). Martin told Politico he wonders, “When the rubber hits the road, when it comes to January, will it be substantively different? This is one last chance. If they lurch back to something from the past, people will be disgusted. They’ll say, ‘A pox on both your houses.’”
The TPM Poll Average of the generic Congressional ballot gives Republicans an edge this fall over the Democrats, 45.6%-42.2%.
Additional reporting by David Taintor