Nation Generally Underwhelmed by GOP’s ‘Pledge to America’


Today, casually dressed House Republican leaders gathered at a lumber store in Virginia to unveil their "Pledge to America" — sort of a 2010 version of 1994's Contract with America, but less binding — a document laying out their platform and how they would govern, if voters are kind enough in November to return them to power. So how is it being received? Not that well! Liberals are quick to point out that the policies, like cutting taxes and cutting spending and cutting the deficit, are hardly novel ideas, nor is it possible for them all to coexist at the same time. But many conservatives are skeptical as well, seeing the Pledge as toothless and timid.

Ezra Klein, WP:

Their policy agenda is detailed and specific — a decision they will almost certainly come to regret. Because when you get past the adjectives and soaring language, the talk of inalienable rights and constitutional guarantees, you're left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that's already got too little of it.

Eric Erickson, Redstate:

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.

National Review editors:

The inevitable question will be: Is the pledge as bold as the Contract? The answer is: The pledge is bolder. The Contract with America merely promised to hold votes on popular bills that had been bottled up during decades of Democratic control of the House. 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.

John Hinderaker, Powerline:

The Pledge is a much more radical document than the Contract With America was. I mean that in a positive sense: the Contract was a collection of micro-issues that polled overwhelmingly well — for example, that Congress should be subject to the same employment laws that it inflicts on the rest of us. But those were more placid times. This year's Pledge is a ringing statement of first principles. It deliberately echoes the Constitution and, especially, the Declaration of Independence.

David Frum, Frum Forum:

The “Pledge to America” is a repudiation of the central, foundational idea behind the Tea Party. Tea Party activists have been claiming all year that there exists in the United States a potential voting majority for radically more limited government. The Republican “Pledge to America” declares: Sorry, we don’t believe that. We shall cut spending where we can — reform the legislative process in important ways — and sever the federal guarantee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans will redirect the federal government to a new path that is less expensive and intrusive than the status quo. But if you want promises of radical change? No. Too risky.

Andrew Roth, Club for Growth:

I want to like the new GOP Pledge to America. I want to endorse it, but it's so milquetoast that it proves to me that these guys just aren't ready to lead. In order to prevent a return of the big-spending Republican ways during the Bush years, the House GOP needs to institute two things that will FORCE them to behave — getting rid of earmarks and enacting a balanced budget amendment or a spending limit amendment. This new Pledge was silent on both.

Michelle Malkin:

The new GOP pledge is fine as far as it goes — especially the upfront acknowledgment that government’s powers derive from the consent of the governed, not from the penumbras emanating from the fingertips of all President Obama’s czars. But actions speak louder than words.

Marc Ambinder, Atlantic:

Republicans don't need a Contract or a Pledge. Their base is energized. The Democratic base is not. The folks who are going to vote arguably know Republicans stand for the stuff in the pledge because Republicans have been talking about this stuff since the beginning of the cycle. Arguably, it gives Democrats more of a defined target, something that they can redirect attention to. Arguably, had the Republicans been able to produce a more substantive governing document, they would have made it harder for Democrats to demagogue.

Chris Cillizza, Fix/WP:

Still, voters almost always want to feel as though they are casting an affirmative vote for something rather than just against everything. The "Pledge" is an attempt by the GOP to allow voters soured on Democrats to feel as though Republicans are something more than just the loyal opposition.

Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress:

Perhaps the most telling thing about where the modern conservative movement is now, however, is their pledge on spending which says that “with common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.” Of course once you except Social Security, Medicare, and defense from cuts you’re talking about not touching the government’s three largest programs.

Marc Thoma, Economist's View:

There don't seem to be any new ideas here, just a promise to undo what's been done since the Republicans lost power. Why would we want to return to the policies that brought us a stagnant middle class even in the best of times, widening inequality, out of control financial markets, the biggest recession in recent memory, declining rates of health care coverage, threats to Social Security and to social insurance more generally, tax policies that reinforce trends in inequality and create big holes in the budget (amid false claims that tax cuts more than pay for themselves), and two wars whose total costs to the nation go far beyond the large budgetary costs that have brought programs such as Social Security and Medicare — programs vital to middle and low income households — under increasing financial pressure?

Steve Benen, Political Animal/Washington Monthly:

Looking at the bigger picture, it's tempting to think House Republicans deserve at least some credit for making the effort. After all, the GOP hasn't even tried to craft a policy agenda in many years. The point of the "Pledge," presumably, is to help demonstrate that congressional Republicans aren't just the "party of no"; this is a new GOP prepared to reclaim the mantle of "party of ideas." But that's precisely why the endeavor is such an embarrassing failure. The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas.

Matt Welch, Hit & Run/Reason:

[A]ny response to the Continuing Crisis that doesn't involve specifics on entitlement or defense cuts seems to have successfully created symbolism of another kind: We know you're not serious about our unsustainable spending problem.

Dan Pfeiffer, White House Blog:

Tonight, we learned more details about the Congressional Republican agenda - their “Pledge to America.” With this plan, they have made clear that they want to take America back to the same failed economic policies that caused this recession. Instead of charting a new course, Congressional Republicans doubled down on the same ideas that hurt America’s middle class.

Derek Thompson, Atlantic:

The GOP's new talking points memo/policy proposal/governing agenda is called 'Pledge for America,' and it seems to me decidedly un-newsworthy. That's not because it isn't worthy of discussion, but rather because it isn't news, or more specifically, it isn't new.

Jonathan Chait, New Republic:

The Republican Party's new "Pledge To America" is not what you'd call a surprise. It's a reprise of every theme of Republican economic policy-making the party has followed for 20 years, since the conservative wing rejected George H.W. Bush's deficit reduction deal and seized control of the party. Since then, the Republican program has consisted of a combination of specific, detailed plans to increase the deficit alongside vague assertions of intent to reduce it.

Chuck Todd and friends, First Read/MSNBC:

But the GOP’s blueprint also contains obvious contradictions. How does this demonstrate the GOP has new ideas when its first policy proposal is making the Bush tax cuts permanent? How do you reduce the deficit if you make those tax cuts permanent? Why work to ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions if you repeal a law that already does that? Why push for tax cuts for small businesses when your party has opposed similar cuts that Democrats have offered?