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The Pledge to America: The Basics

10:25 AM, Sep 23, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The GOP will officially release its modern Contract With America today at an event in Sterling, Va., but the commentary on the 21-page document is already plentiful.

CBS has the full document, which is split into sections on Jobs, Cutting Spending, Repealing and Replaceing Health Care Reform, Reforming Congress, and Defense.

The National Review deems it bolder than the Contract With America, but wishes it were bolder in spots. The editors declare the jobs section weakest, but notes there are plenty of crowd-pleasers that will be hard to argue against:

[T]he pledge is explicitly a beginning to the lengthy task of providing conservative governance, and a very good one.

It is also a shrewd political document. Do the Democrats really wish to campaign on the proposition that bills should not be available for public inspection and should not have to cite their constitutional authority? That Social Security and Medicare should not be fully accounted for? That TARP should be continued indefinitely? Republicans looking to the elections should hope so.

Phil Klein at The American Spectator is underwhelmed, as are some conservatives who prefer that the GOP take a bold, Paul Ryan tack in the future:

National Review's editors, in their endorsement of the "Pledge," argue that its proposals are bolder than 1994's "Contract With America." That may be so, but the times we're living in call for much more drastic measures than before. In 1994, the Cold War had just ended, the annual deficit was at $203 billion and trending downward, unemployment was at under 6 percent and falling, HillaryCare had just gone down in flames, and we still had decades to deal with the entitlement crisis. Today we're engaged in two wars as well as facing the broader threat from Islamic terrorism, the deficit stands at over $1.3 trillion, the unemployment rate has been hovering near the double-digits and isn't receding, ObamaCare is the law of the land, and the entitlement crisis is upon us -- or just a few years away if you're being more charitable.

One Republican (Rep. Paul Ryan) has at least taken a stab at proposing a comprehensive set of solutions that aim to address our nation's problems, but his fellow GOP House members have run away from the plan like the plague, and are reinforcing their timidity by releasing today's document.

The "reform Congress" section is likely to have fans in the aftermath of the messy health care reform fight. A promise to have bills online for three days before Congress votes is far more practical and useful pledge than Obama's empty promise to have bills online for five days between passage and signing (although almost entirely cosmetic, he didn't even bother to keep this pledge).

The Jobs section promises to stop "job-killing tax hikes permanently," allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income, require that new regulatory demands pass Congress, repeal the 1099 section of the health-care law.

The Cutting Spending section promises to roll back government spending to pre-stimulus/bailout levels, put a freeze on federal hiring, discontinue TARP, cap Congress' budget, hold weekly votes on spending cuts, adopt sunset requirements for programs, end federal entanglement with Fannie and Freddie, reckon with the shortfalls of entitlement programs in the budget, and repeal and replace Obamacare.

Reforming Congress would require that each bill have a constitutional citation to explain why Congress has the authority to enact it, the requirement that bills be online for three days before votes, allow amendments on spending bills, and pledges to advance major legislation one issue at a time.

The Defense section calls for passing clean troop-funding bills, funding missile defense, upholding the terrorist detention system, and enforcing sanctions against Iran.

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