Election issues: Congressional agenda

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On August 22, SAFE sent a proposed agenda for congressional Republicans - Contract with America 2.0 - to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy with copies to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell & President Donald Trump.

Given the success of the Contract of America that Congressional Republicans used in 1994, our aim was to propose a positive message for the GOP in 2020 that might not only help them in the election contests that are up for grabs (presidential race, some 470 congressional races, and numerous state elections) but also advance SAFE’s smaller, more focused, less costly government agenda. Our draft document set forth 17 points, approximately the same number of points (in total) that Newt Gingrich et al. proposed in 1994.

House Republicans released a Commitment to America last week, which tracked the general thrust of our proposal (probably by sheer coincidence) but differed greatly on the details. House Republican Agenda: “Rebuild the greatest economy in American history,” Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner,
9/15/20.

A comparison of this document to our handiwork follows, which demonstrates the reluctance of Republicans (let alone Democrats) to acknowledge and address the growing dysfunction of this country’s federal government.

A. Republican Commitment to America (RCA) – The GOP proposal comes in three formats (downloadable PDF files): The Republican Plan on One Page (Positive points, full text, normal margins); The Democrat Agenda on One Page (Attack points, full text, normal margins); Commitment to America Brochure (Combination of positive & attack points, condensed text with narrower margins, 2-page brochure). Here’s the full RCA text for ready reference:

The Republican
COMMITMENT
to AMERICA

RESTORE OUR WAY OF LIFE.

We will defeat the virus and keep America healthy by:

-Tripling rapid COVID testing and developing a vaccine that is safe, effective, and available this year

-Investing in therapeutics and cures, slashing drug prices, and ending surprise medical billing

-Protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions and expanding access to affordable telemedicine, mental health services, and opioid treatment

-Modernizing our medical stockpile to prepare for future pandemics

We will ensure the safety and security of all communities by:

-Opposing efforts to defund the police while increasing funding by $1.75 billion for better police training, community policing, and equipment, including 500,000 more body cameras

-Continuing to rebuild our military, support our troops, secure our borders, and enforce our immigration laws

We will preserve our freedoms under the Constitution by:

-Upholding free speech, protecting religious liberty, defending the unborn, and safeguarding the Second Amendment

REBUILD THE GREATEST ECONOMY IN HISTORY.

We will get America working and add 10 million new good-paying jobs by:

-Supporting millions of local businesses and their workers with $200 billion in forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program

-Extending the $2,000 child tax credit and making permanent Opportunity Zone credits that generate $10 billion each year in poor communities

-Continuing proven pro-growth tax policies that increase take-home pay and encourage innovation

We will end our dependence on China and enhance our economic security by:

-Implementing the China Task Force recommendations to move our supply chain for medicine, protective medical equipment, and technology out of China, increase US manufacturing, and reach more free and fair trade deals

We will upgrade and modernize America’s infrastructure by:

-Bringing high-speed internet to every household in the United States, launching a five-year plan to fix our roads, bridges, and airports, while cutting the permitting process time in half

RENEW THE AMERICAN DREAM.

We will make sure that every child in every neighborhood can attend an excellent school by:

-Allowing students to go to the school that parents believe is best for them

-Investing millions in high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math education

We will honor our veterans’ service to America and hire our heroes by:

-Fully funding the VA Choice healthcare program that trusts veterans to choose their own doctor, while expanding GI education benefits so every veteran who wants a job can find one

We will support our citizens’ success, now and in the future, by:

-Promoting opportunities for career and technical education, workforce development, and lifelong learning so more Americans can earn a promotion or pursue a meaningful new career

-Reaching bipartisan consensus to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare and reduce our debt


THE DEMOCRAT AGENDA

DEFUND.
Police, immigration enforcement and military:

-Democrats support defunding our police, which would devastate our communities and encourage more violent rioting and looting

-Democrats support defunding our immigration enforcement and border patrol, which would pave the way for completely open borders

-Democrats support defunding our military, which would jeopardize America’s national security and the safety of our servicemen and women

“The fight to defund policing continues.”
- Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


DISMANTLE.
Constitutional, democratic and civic institutions:


-Democrats voted to impeach President Trump to dismantle the voice of the American people and undo an election outcome they didn’t agree with

-Democrats support dismantling our Constitution by extending the right to vote to illegal immigrants while allowing themselves to vote by proxy in Congress

•Democrats support dismantling our system of checks and balances by packing the Supreme Court, abolishing the filibuster, and adding Washington, DC as a state

“It’s been going on for 22 months – two and a half years, actually.”
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Democrat impeachment efforts


DESTROY.
Jobs, innovation, and our influence in the world:

-Democrats support raising trillions in taxes and regulations on families and local businesses, which would destroy our economy

-Democrats support destroying private healthcare plans while advocating free healthcare for illegal immigrants

-Democrats have failed to hold China accountable at every turn and would destroy our position on the world stage

“First thing I would do as President is eliminate the President’s tax cut.”
- Former Vice President Joe Biden



B. Contract with America 2.0 – SAFE's draft proposal was posted on 8/22/20. It has 17 points, the same number in total (ex the Democratic Agenda) as would later appear in the RCA.

Following the example set in 1994, CWA 2.0 didn’t include any negative points about the Democratic record or agenda. The sole intent was to give positive reasons for electing a Republican Congress.

We also emulated the original Contract with America (which called for all items on the list to be done or voted on within the first 100 days) by setting a deadline for every item on our list. In contrast, there is no indication of timing for the points set forth in the RCA, such as might suggest a sense of urgency.

In 1994, GOP House members and candidates were asked to sign the CWA – eventually 367 candidates did so of which 224 candidates (a majority) won their elections. Text of the Contract with America, upi.com,
11/9/94. To our knowledge, no one is being asked to sign the RCA, which might suggest that it is a half-hearted proposal, unlikely to have much effect.

C. Subjects covered – RCA brings up a number of subjects that weren’t addressed in CWA 2.0, e.g., defeating the coronavirus (we believe this problem will subside pretty quickly after the elections); new or expanded spending programs (roads & bridges, high speed internet for everyone, veterans benefits, school choice, STEM education, adult education, more money for the paycheck protection program); implementing China Task Force recommendations; preserving our freedoms under the Constitution (without any actionable ideas).

There is overlap in some areas, including pro-growth tax policies, maintenance of law and order, and doing something about Social Security and Medicare, but CWA 2.0 is generally more specific. Thus:

•Our proposal (Bill Four) would make all 2017 tax cuts permanent, with the exception of phasing out as many special tax credits as possible. RCA calls for “continuing proven pro-growth tax policies,” and Rep. Kevin Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee has stated that all cuts in the 2017 legislation would be made permanent. Rebuild the greatest economy in American history,
op. cit.

•Our proposal (Bill Nine) provides that acts of violence “shall not be considered peaceful protests and shall be punishable to the full extent of the law.” RCA would oppose “efforts to defund the police” and increase federal funding in some areas.

•Our proposal (Bills Five and Six) would appoint Special Commissions to recommend overhauls to Medicare/ACA and Social Security, respectively, with reporting deadlines and general instructions. RCA “would protect individuals with pre-existing conditions” and “[reach] bipartisan consensus to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare and reduce our debt.” Query: How would bipartisan consensus be achieved, and how could “our debt” be reduced without balancing the budget (which is not proposed as an objective)?

CWA 2.0 offers some ideas for curbing the abuse of congressional oversight activities, i.e., require congressional subpoenas to have a proper legislative purpose and abolish FISA. RCA relies solely on attacks on the Democratic Agenda in this area.

RCA says “Democrats support raising trillions in taxes and regulations on families and local businesses, which would destroy our economy,” without any suggestions for cutting spending or restraining regulatory mission creep. CWA 2.0 proposes a commitment to balance the budget in 5 years with at least 75% of the deficit reductions coming from spending cuts (to be followed by the passage of a balanced budget amendment), changes in congressional budget and appropriation rules to curb gaming of the system, a concerted push to prune more regulatory “red tape,” and a congressional approval requirement for future major regulations.

CWA 2.0 offers some ideas for getting the federal government out of certain areas and returning responsibility to the states, e.g., Medicaid and education. RCA would operate like a one-way ratchet, increasing the federal role in all areas.

D. Assessment – RCA seems far more attractive than our understanding of the Democrat agenda. See, e.g., If Biden wins, climate change will top the agenda in the next Congress, Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, 9/10/20.

That being said, the ideas SAFE outlined in CWA 2.0 seem better yet. We believe they merit detailed consideration by all concerned.

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#Don’t hold your breath while waiting. – Retired finance executive

# Both parties in panicked mode and are spending more than we can afford. They will not listen to us. Our system is failing. – SAFE director


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