Party like it's 1994: GOP to offer plan to reverse Obama

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 22, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives Thursday plan to offer a blueprint for how they'd dramatically change what they term an "arrogant and out of touch government of self-appointed elites" by pledging to repeal the Obama health care law, continue all Bush-era tax cuts and significantly cut spending.

The agenda, scheduled to be unveiled by GOP leaders at a Virginia lumber and hardware store on Thursday, tries to give voters a clear, pointed choice in November. McClatchy obtained a copy Wednesday evening.

The "new governing agenda" quickly draws a stark contrast with the Democrats who now control Congress and the White House, and tries to incorporate much of the conservative anger of the national tea party movement in its sharp, cutting rhetoric and in some of its ideas.

"An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values," the Republican document says, "striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scoring the deepest beliefs of the American people.

"An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many," it adds.

The Republican plan is an effort to gain the same kind of momentum the GOP generated for its House candidates in 1994, when it unveiled the "Contract with America'' six weeks before the November election. That contract was credited with helping the GOP regain control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

The agenda also comes at a time when tea party candidates have unseated Republican establishment candidates in several states. Mainstream GOP leaders feel threatened and worry they could lose the general elections to the Democrats because their candidates might seem too extreme.

Democrats quickly scoffed.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., issued a statement that says the plan pledges allegiance to a wide array of special interests, including: "Insurance companies, who we want to put back in charge of health care . . . the wealthiest of the wealthy, who we will protect before the middle class . . . the oil companies, whom we apologized to . . . big corporations, and the jobs they outsource . . . with a recession and huge deficits for all."

The GOP document is similar to its 1994 contract in that it tries to distinguish the two parties sharply. It's being released about six weeks before an election in which Republicans need a net gain of 39 House seats to win control for the first time since the 2006 elections, a goal some independent analysts give the GOP a decent chance of reaching.

The "new governing agenda" is largely a collection of ideas that Republicans have been pushing for the last two years, with virtually no success.

Though it deals mostly with economic and national security issues, its introduction notes that "we pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values." The language was seen as important to conservatives who oppose gay marriage and abortion.

Most of the document deals with the issues that polls say voters care most about, notably the economy.

Foremost is the plan to continue the Bush-era tax cuts. Unless Congress acts by Dec. 31, income tax rates will return to pre-Bush levels; Democrats want to maintain the current rates for everyone except individuals who earn more than $200,000 and joint filers who make more than $250,000.

Democratic leaders have been scrambling to come up with a plan because many party moderates want to keep all the lower rates, at least for awhile. So do the Republicans.

"We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases currently scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2011," the blueprint says. The GOP also would allow small business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income.

Also on the agenda: Repealing the new law that requires small businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service any purchase of more than $600. Republicans call the provision "a job-killing small business mandate."

The document also promises big spending cuts, though it offers few specific reductions. "It isn't just we need to stop spending so much," Republicans say. "We need to stop spending so irrationally."

They want to roll back spending to pre-2009 stimulus, pre-2008 bailout levels, which they say will save at least $100 billion in the first year, "with common sense exceptions for seniors, veterans and our troops." The bailout helped rescue ailing financial institutions and was initiated by Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Health care gets its own section, no surprise because Republicans in Congress have been nearly unanimous in their opposition to the Obama overhaul. "Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law," the document vows.

Instead, the GOP offers a package that includes many provisions already enacted into law, such as making it illegal to deny anyone coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, barring insurers from dropping coverage for anyone who gets sick, and eliminating annual and lifetime spending caps.

On national security, the blueprint pledges an easier path to approving defense spending. This week, defense legislation stalled over provisions to allow gays to serve openly in the military and expand educational opportunities for the children of illegal immigrants. The bill, which sets policy for the military, is unlikely to be considered again until after the election.

"When asked to provide our troops with the resources they need, we will do so without delay," Republicans said.

It also promised to "prevent the government from importing terrorists onto American soil," and insisting "foreign terrorists do not have the same rights as American citizens, nor do they have more rights than U.S. military personnel." Foreign terrorists will be tried in military, not civilian courts, the GOP said.

The Supreme Court granted Guantanamo inmates the right to challenge their detentions. Since then, the Obama administration has decided to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the highest-ranking al Qaida figure captured thus far, in federal district court in Manhattan.

After a political outcry, the administration put the plan on hold. The government still plans to try some terrorism suspects in federal court, and others before military commissions. Defendants in federal court have greater constitutional rights than those tried in military tribunals, such as the right to remain free from unreasonable search and seizure.

ON THE WEB

2010 GOP's Pledge to America

House Republicans on Democratic economic plan

1994's Contract With America

Democratic "recipe for recovery"

Health care law summary

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