House Republicans Defend New Agenda’s Lack of Specifics

Posted September 26, 2010 at 10:50am

The House Republican “Pledge to America” was not designed as a long-term governing plan, Republicans said Sunday in response to questions about its lack of specifics.

Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) defended the absence of details about reforming entitlement programs and cutting discretionary spending, saying the purpose of the document was to introduce ideas that can pass the House immediately.

McCarthy said on “Fox News Sunday” that specifics about cutting discretionary spending were not needed because each federal agency would have the opportunity to select programs to eliminate under the Republican proposal.

McCarthy then pointed to the Republican “YouCut” program that allowed Americans to vote online for individual programs they wanted to see removed from the federal rolls.

Asked why there was no mention of Social Security or Medicare reform in the 45-page document, Boehner said Americans must first understand how big the entitlement problem is before Republicans can lay out any options for reducing entitlement spending.

“I think we need to do this in a more systematic way and have this conversation first,” he said. “Let’s not get to the potential solutions, let’s make sure Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin to talk about possible solutions.”

Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) was also pressed for details about the pledge during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Ending bailouts and cutting spending in Washington, D.C., is a new idea,” Pence said when asked what ideas in the pledge were new to the debate.

Like McCarthy and Boehner, Pence said it was imperative that Democrats pass an across-the-board extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, instead of excluding the wealthy. The Democratic leadership is only pushing for an extension of tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 a year ($250,000 a year for couples).

Pressed on “Fox News Sunday” about the lack of earmark reform provisions in the pledge, Boehner said Republicans had already passed a yearlong earmark moratorium in March. “Today we have a moratorium on earmarks, and I can tell you that if Republicans win the majority in November, it will not be business as usual here in Congress,” he added.

Asked several times whether he would promise to ban earmarks if he became Speaker, Boehner only said, “It will not be business as usual in Washington, D.C.”

Democrats and some conservative Republicans have pilloried the new GOP agenda since it was unveiled last week, saying it is short on details and only contains more of the same ideas Republicans have pitched for years. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who appeared on “Fox News Sunday” after Boehner and McCarthy, said there was little he could say about the document that hadn’t been said by critics on the Republican side of the aisle.

“Well, the Pledge to America is more spin than specifics,” Hoyer said. “In this document, they want to create another $4 trillion in debt, and they say the way to solve that deficit problem is to cut non-defense, non-security discretionary spending. They’d have to cut between two-thirds and 80 percent of all discretionary spending over the next 10 years.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) called the pledge a “rehash.”

“It is a recycling of the Bush economic agenda; they put a new front page on it, but otherwise this is a Xerox copy,” Van Hollen said on “Meet the Press,” calling some of the cost savings included in the document “phony.”

Van Hollen pointed to a provision in the pledge that claims to save money by ending the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“We voted to get rid of TARP already, it was part of the Wall Street reform bill that Republicans opposed. That bill terminated TARP,” Van Hollen said. “It’s hard to take seriously given their record here.”