GOP Formally Unveils New Governing Agenda

Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:10am

Updated: 11:56 a.m.

STERLING, Va. — House Republicans on Thursday officially unveiled what they hope will be a majority-making agenda at a Virginia hardware store warehouse, but were vague about how it could be executed.

“A Pledge to America” calls for a series of reforms, including cutting the size of the federal government, to put the country back on a path to prosperity. The agenda, months in the making, touches only lightly on divisive social issues.

“It’s a governing agenda that could be enacted tomorrow,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.

Boehner, Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (Wash.), and Reps. Peter Roskam (Ill.), Frank Wolf (Va.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Mac Thornberry (Texas), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Jeb Hensarling (Texas) were on hand for the formal release of the document inside Tart Lumber Co. Inc. Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who chaired the project that created the agenda, also spoke. Cantor, Pence and McMorris Rogers did not speak during the nearly 40-minute news conference.

Other Members present took turns outlining aspects of the agenda and called for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to vote on the issues outlined in the document.

Leaders made no effort to clarify vague parts of the agenda during a brief question-and-answer period following Member speeches.

Boehner insisted to reporters that the agenda was clear on where Republicans stood on many of their questions.

Asked about how Republicans would “work toward a balanced budget” or handle entitlement reform, Boehner said, “I think it is pretty clear by having this spending cap at 2008 levels we can save $100 billion a year. That is $1 trillion over the next 10 years.”

“When it comes to dealing with the entitlement programs I’ve been pretty clear,” he said. “It’s time for us as Americans to have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges that face our country.”

He added, “I don’t have all the solutions, but if we work with the American people, the American people will want to work with us to come to grips with these challenges that face our country.”

Boehner said some issues were not included in the agenda because the document represented a series of first steps to start repairing the economy.

“If you’ll look at the pledge, it is not intended to be a party platform,” he said. “It is not intended to cover everything under the sun.”

Asked why earmark reform was largely omitted from the agenda, Boehner said Republicans already had a moratorium in place that showed their commitment to the issue.

“Clearly, the American people are concerned about earmarks, that’s why the Republican Conference took the position of having an earmark moratorium for this year,” he said.

Boehner dodged a question about why the agenda did not include a plan for comprehensive immigration reform.

“You are asking about something that is not in the document?” Boehner asked.

“I think it’s pretty clear in the document that first steps for real immigration reform are to secure our borders and enforce our laws — two things that are in our Pledge to America,” he said.

Republican aides said the hardware store was chosen because it was an example of a small business that would be hurt if the George W. Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire at the end of the year.

Prior to the formal unveiling of their new governing platform, Republican leaders met behind closed doors with local small-business owners to discuss the difficulties of running a business in the current economic environment.