Skip to main content

GOP leaders pledge to cut government, taxes

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
GOP introduces 'Pledge to America'
  • NEW: Gibbs says the GOP plan is nothing new and was written by a lobbyist
  • GOP leaders pledge to cut taxes and spending
  • They also called for a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions
  • Republicans want to give small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income

Sterling, Virginia (CNN) -- House Republicans sought to recapture the spirit of their 1994 election landslide Thursday, unveiling a 21-page "Pledge to America" that includes promises to slash taxes, cut government and reverse President Barack Obama's health care reforms.

Among other things, House GOP leaders pledged to permanently extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of this year -- including for individuals making over $250,000.

They also proposed giving small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income, while requiring Congress to review any new federal regulations that add to the deficit.

They pushed a domestic spending freeze, with the exception of certain politically sensitive programs such as veterans' benefits.

While stressing the need to reduce spiraling deficits, they did not offer specifics on how to restrain the growth of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The document also lacks a pledge against unrelated pet projects that members of Congress often insert in spending bills to bring funding to their home districts -- known as earmarks. Banning earmarks is typically a staple of Republican policy.

"The federal government is too big, it spends too much, and it's out of control," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. The current federal government "isn't listening" and "doesn't get it."

"Our government has failed us," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California. "The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. ... People are outraged."

The House GOP leadership unveiled its proposal at a lumber company in northern Virginia.

Some provisions in the GOP document match positions of the conservative Tea Party movement that has helped defeat mainstream Republican candidates in several primary elections this year. For example, the document calls for a federal hiring freeze on nonsecurity employees and requiring all legislation to include a clause showing that it is authorized under the Constitution.

Other items would cancel unspent funding authorized by the economic stimulus bill, roll back spending to levels before the stimulus bill and earlier federal bailout legislation and repeal the health care reform bill passed in March.

The document also calls for permanently prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion.

Several Republican sources said there was no intention to directly address social issues because the electorate is so heavily focused on jobs and spending.

Republican leaders settled on a line that states: "We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values."

This language was a late addition, according to a GOP source, after conservative Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana argued that social issues should be included in the document representing the agenda of House Republicans.

The top Republican in the Senate immediately endorsed the plan, calling it a key step in the GOP's push to cut the overall size of the federal government.

"The House Republican plan is a clear and forceful response to these concerns, and working together, House and Senate Republicans will continue to fight for the principles upon which it is based," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

House Democratic leaders, in contrast, claimed the document showed Republicans want to return to what they called failed policies of the past.

It seems "like just another day," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said after the rollout. Gibbs told reporters the plan was written by a lobbyist, and was no different from anything the GOP had put forward over the last decade.

A statement from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office on Wednesday mocked the GOP positions, saying they showed that Republicans pledged allegiance to hedge fund managers on Wall Street, insurance companies, the "wealthiest of the wealthy," oil companies and big corporations that outsource jobs, "with a recession and huge deficits for all."

The GOP document represents an updated version of the 1994 "Contract with America." That much shorter, 10-item document, with specific bills attached to each item that would be passed with a Republican victory, was rolled out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and signed by GOP members of Congress and candidates.

The 2010 version has more than 20 items, including changes to how Congress works and broad policy goals such as tougher sanctions against Iran. While it does contain legislative proposals, it does not include specific bills that would be introduced and passed if Republicans gain control of the House.

A GOP lawmaker involved in putting together the document told CNN Wednesday that House Republicans realize voters are angry with both Democrats and Republicans. The agenda contained in the "Pledge to America" is intended to convince such voters that their concerns are taken seriously by Republicans, who will act differently if returned to power than they did when controlling Congress during parts of the Bush administration, the legislator said.

CNN's Tom Cohen, Alan Silverleib and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report