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GOP Web Project Contributed Little to Pledge

Most Agenda Ideas Had Already Been Offered

Republican leaders launched in May an Internet-based initiative to collect public opinion on key issues, saying the effort would lead to a new governing agenda from the party. But when the agenda was revealed last week, only one provision appears to have come solely from that effort.

The rest of the proposals that became part of “A Pledge to America” already existed as a part of other House Republican initiatives or as bills offered by individual Members months before the website was launched.

Only one provision — a proposal to advance major bills one at a time and avoid omnibus legislation ­— seems to have emerged directly from the America Speaking Out website, according to a Roll Call analysis of the agenda.

Rep. Peter Roskam (Ill.), deputy chairman of the America Speaking Out project, said many of the topics that ended up in “Pledge” were discussed heavily on the website, proving that they were important to the public.

“There were a lot of website discussions on tax policy, a lot of website discussions on Constitution themes like anchoring Congressional action back to the Constitution, a lot of web conversation about health care, generally,” he said.

“It’s not that big of a surprise if you think about it,” Roskam said of the issues that ended up in the pledge. “Let’s face it, none of these topics are new topics.”

Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the chairman of the agenda project, said at the launch of the America Speaking Out initiative that it would help shape the new GOP agenda, which would also draw ideas from town halls, Republican Solutions Groups and other areas.

[IMGCAP(1)]”At, all Americans are invited to submit their ideas for a policy agenda and take part in a national discussion of solutions,” McCarthy said in May, when the website launched.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the GOP agenda project, said the purpose of the America Speaking Out website and town hall series was to figure out what average citizens wanted included among GOP priorities.

He cited the issues in the national security section as an example of an area where many of the ideas that were offered on the website coincided with bills offered by House Republicans.

The proposals in the GOP plan “to keep our nation secure at home and abroad” pull several ideas from a May 13 document released by Armed Services Committee Republicans titled “Defend America.”

Another provision in that section would require the Department of Homeland Security to ensure immigrants who have their visas revoked are deported — an idea that was in a bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) on March 4.

The pledge includes a proposal to allow small businesses to deduct 20 percent of their business income.

Republicans have repeatedly touted this as a measure that would receive bipartisan support if it were brought to the floor immediately.

The idea was a part of an economic plan offered by Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in January 2009. It was also a part of the Republican Better Solutions package released in January 2010.

Many other proposals in the Republican plan “to stop out of control spending and the size of government” came from a House Budget Committee initiative called “Cut Spending Now” released on May 25.

The Republican proposals in that document that also made their way into the pledge included: bills to cancel unspent stimulus funds and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, both authored by Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.); a measure to roll back spending to 2008 levels, proposed by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) in October 2009; and a bill to “sunset” outdated and duplicative programs, introduced in January 2009 by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

The health care section of the agenda is based almost entirely on the Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act introduced by Camp in November 2009.

A health care repeal bill introduced by Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) in May 2010 is also included in the agenda. Herger’s bill would repeal the health care law passed by the House in March and replace it with the Camp legislation.

“That is a promise we have made for a very long time,” Buck said.

Not all the ideas in the Republican agenda came from GOP proposals. At least one item was originally introduced by a Democrat.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) introduced a bill in June 2009 that would make sure legislation would be published online 72 hours before coming to a vote. A discharge petition using the “Read the Bill” language was later introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

Buck and Members involved with the project have insisted the solutions outlined in the document were meant for immediate implementation, though the House is expected to adjourn by the end of this week, leaving little time to address any of the bills even if Democrats wanted to. Democrats have rejected the agenda as a rehash of bad Republican policies.

Republican leaders were working on a strategy at the end of last week to try to move some of the legislation this week.