Back in 1994 the American public knew that if they voted for Republicans for Congress they would get Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey's Contract with America. They did; and they did. Two years into the Clinton administration the Republicans gained 54 House seats, 9 Senate seats, and control of both houses. The Republican House passed all of the promised legislation. Much, particularly a balanced budget amendment and term limits, did not get past the Senate or a presidential veto, but much did - tort reform, welfare reform, criminal sentencing, small business incentives - and the tone was set for fiscal restraint for the balance of the Clinton presidency.
On October 2, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus unveiled the 2014 version - a set of principles which appeal to conservatives, but which will soon be forgotten. Nevertheless, for those tired of hearing the "party of no" canard, here they are:
- CONSTITUTION: Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored.
- ECONOMY: We need to start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.
- BUDGET/DEBT: We need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, make government more efficient, and leave the next generation with opportunity, not debt.
- HEALTHCARE: We need to start over with real healthcare reform that puts patients and their doctors in charge, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington.
- VETERANS: Our veterans have earned our respect and gratitude, and no veteran should have to wait in line for months or years just to see a doctor.
- SECURITY: Keeping America safe and strong requires a strong military, growing the economy, energy independence, and secure borders.
- EDUCATION: Every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education; no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.
- POVERTY: The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job, so our focus should be on getting people out of poverty by lifting up all people and helping them find work.
- VALUES: Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.
- ENERGY: We should make America energy independent by encouraging investment in domestic energy, lowering prices, and creating jobs at home.
- IMMIGRATION: We need an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.
This is not an inspirational set of legislation for which individual members of the House and Senate can be held accountable, but it is all that we have from the GOP leadership. Assuming that the Republicans capture the Senate, the period after November 4, should play out about as follows:
- The President takes sweeping unilateral action on immigration, probably "extending deferred action to millions of low-priority immigrants". Republicans see it coming but choose to do nothing to preempt it, instead fighting a rear-guard political and legal battle that will cost Hispanic votes for generations. Any real solution becomes a central issue in the 2016 presidential election.
- Republicans pass the obligatory repeal of Obamacare; the President vetoes. Republicans consider some fixes - purchase of insurance across state lines; extension of exemptions to more businesses; tort reform; a reduction of mandates. Obama prefers to get another two years of taking root; Republicans prefer to retain a powerful 2016 campaign issue. Little progress.
- Republicans approve the XL pipeline. President Obama, lacking the courage to approve it also lacks the courage to veto it. Truth be told, he doesn't care.
- Republicans move on to a set of popular legislation which has been blocked by Harry Reid - fast track authority for foreign trade deals; acceleration of depreciation for small businesses; repeal of the medical device tax; regulatory relief for small businesses; and enhancements for border security; some corporate tax reform affecting foreign earnings. Obama doesn't care.
- The House continues to investigate Obama administration transgressions - Eric Holder's contempt of Congress; Benghazi; the IRS; the Secret Service. The administration continues to stonewall. The public has lost interest unless it involves Hillary Clinton.
Net, net, without an agreed agenda for specific legislation backed by elected party leaders, the Republicans will have missed both a marketing opportunity and the ability to declare a mandate. So sad. On to 2016.
This week's video offers a picture of what it takes to run for Congress as a Democrat in Colorado - opposing Nancy Pelosi.