Republicans convene in Tampa, Fla., this week not just to formally coronate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate, but to set the agenda they hope to enact if granted power in the November elections.
While there are differences between them – some want to ban all abortions, for example, while others want to allow exceptions in cases of rape – Republicans generally will propose an agenda they say will jumpstart a weak economy, preserve traditional culture and assert American power and ideals abroad.
The party’s formal platform will be adopted by the Republican National Convention on Monday. It’s a good guide to what the Republicans want to do, but it’s hardly a binding contract on any one candidate, whether it’s Romney at the top of the ticket or candidates for the Senate or the House of Representatives.
In recent presidential campaigns, the party platform has been meaningful in its meaninglessness to the candidates, who place a larger premium on their own political stances. In 1996, for example, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole said he hadn’t read the party platform and doubted that he would have time to do so.
This year, the Republican platform will include abortion language adopted last week that reaffirms the party’s objection to legalized abortion, with no mention of exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Romney opposes abortion but supports exceptions for rape, incest, and if the woman’s life is in danger.
“As far as the details of some of these things, like exception for rape or life of the mother, these are not uncommon differences that candidates have,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said last week. “This is the platform of the Republican Party, not the platform of Mitt Romney. . . . That all being said, though, these guys are proud pro-life candidates and we’re a proud pro-life party.”
Still, Romney does embrace most of the party platform. “I don’t think there’ll be a lot of space between the platform and him,” said Tom Rath, a Romney political adviser.
And between his policy proposals and the party platform, Americans can start to flesh out what Republicans would do. Here’s a look at where Romney and the Republican Party stand on key issues:
TAXES: Romney calls for cutting marginal income tax rates 20 percent across the board and eliminating taxes on dividends, interest and capital gains for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of less than $200,000. He’d lower the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. He’s provided no details on how he’d pay for the tax cuts.
DEFICIT: Romney wants to limit spending to 20 percent of the total economy, or the gross domestic product, instead of last year’s 24 percent. That can be accomplished by increasing the size of the economy or by reducing spending. He advocates across-the-board 5 percent cuts in non-security discretionary spending – which includes many domestic programs but excludes entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security. He’d cap spending below 2008 levels.
SOCIAL SECURITY/MEDICARE: Romney proposes slowly increasing the Social Security retirement age and slowing the benefit growth rate for wealthier recipients. He wants no change in Medicare for current beneficiaries or those nearing retirement. For the rest, Romney supports a “premium support” plan that would give Medicare recipients benefits for them to buy insurance coverage. Some congressional Republican candidates, however, are distancing themselves from Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s Medicare approach.
WALL STREET: Romney advocates repealing and replacing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulatory changes with a “streamlined, modern, regulatory framework. As president, he’d review all Obama-era regulations and eliminate those that he feels “unduly burden the economy.”
TRADE: Romney says he would issue an executive order on his first day in office ordering the State Department to list China as a currency manipulator and to direct the Commerce Department to assess countervailing duties on Chinese imports if Beijing fails to float its currency. U.S. business and many lawmakers believe that China keeps a competitive edge over American manufacturers and businesses by keeping the yuan weak to boost exports
He also wants a “Reagan Economic Zone” in Asia that would promote free trade and “draw in an expanding circle of nations seeking greater access to other markets.”
HEALTH CARE: Romney and congressional Republicans want to repeal the 2010 health care law passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. Romney would issue an executive order immediately that would allow any state to waive the law’s requirements and urge states to adopt their own health care plans.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Romney supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman and vowed to use other measures to promote traditional marriage. As a U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts 18 years ago, Romney promised to be a strong advocate for gay rights.
IMMIGRATION: Romney wants to complete the U.S.-Mexico border fence or high-tech system to reduce illegal immigration south of the border. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants now in the U.S. He opposes the DREAM Act, which would allow young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children to stay here if they’re enrolled in college or serve in the military. However, he supports the military component of the act. “As president I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service,” he told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials convention in June.
DEFENSE: Romney wants to reinstate looming defense cuts, with spending not allowed to drop below 4 percent of the gross domestic product. He calls for more competition for military contracts and for paring down a Pentagon civilian workforce that he describes as “bloated.” As president, Romney wants to increase the number of Navy ships built from nine per year to 15 per year.
IRAN: Romney says he would keep the military option on the table. He added that in his first 100 days as president he would deploy aircraft carrier task forces to the Eastern Mediterranean and to the Persian Gulf region simultaneously.
AFGHANISTAN: Romney labeled Obama’s publicly released timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2014 “naive.” Still, the former Massachusetts governor concurs with Obama’s timetable but stresses that the decision to withdraw troops would be assessed by U.S. military commanders and conditions on the ground.
RUSSIA: Romney advocates a hardened view of Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin than Obama and former President George W. Bush. He said he would review the implementation of the START nuclear arms treaty, apparently raising the possibility that he might refuse to continue acting on it. He also said he would “confront the Russian government over its authoritarian practices” and would provide stronger support for Russian neighbors like Poland.
EDUCATION: Romney proposes expanding parental school choice by linking federal education funds to students so that parents could send their children to any public or charter school. He also would revamp the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act by reducing the federal government’s management role while ensuring that schools are held responsible for results.