The House Republicans’ Pledge to America might just be too little, too late. I have marveled for a year now at how easily the Republicans have let Democrats get away with calling them “obstructionists” and accusing them of having no ideas or solutions of their own, only criticisms of the Democratic agenda.
Some of the best, most practical, most obvious, most necessary, least extreme, least partisan, and least ideological ideas there are over the last two years have been coming from the Tea Party movement brewing in the “center-right” of the country’s political divide. But for two years now, the House Leadership has preferred to ignore them, and is now plagiarizing and betraying them at the same time with its “Pledge to America” (M).
A Real Pledge to America
The Republicans’ rising star, U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul, has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that we need a balanced budget amendment requiring Washington to do what every small business has to do: balance its budget.
He has advocated a law that would require Congress to wait one day for every twenty pages in a bill before it can pass. That would give everyone — including the Congressmen themselves — time to actually read the bill before Congress votes on it. Additionally, Rand Paul wants to require Congressmen to sign a legal document attesting that they have read a bill before voting for it.
Finally, Rand Paul has called for term limits, which would curb the ambitions of career politicians and make our nation’s highest offices more accessible to its everyday citizens.
These are all policies that make sense to most Americans. Washington simply cannot spend more than it takes in. That is not an extreme, partisan, right-wing idea, but a simple and unavoidable reality, and frankly a balanced-budget amendment might have prevented the so-called “tax cuts for the wealthy” that the Democrats rail against.
And reading a law that affects and changes people’s lives before voting on it also just makes sense. It would create real transparency in the legislative process. Any politician who opposes such a policy cannot claim to be for transparency. If a “Read the Bills” act had been in effect over the last decade, many of Washington’s worst bills like TARP and the Patriot Act may not be law today.
The Phony Pledge to America
But during some of the most critical moments in recent legislative history — like the fight over health care reform as well as the bipartisan Washington orgy that gave birth to the TARP bailouts — the Republican Party seriously fumbled an opportunity to stand up and fight for some of the best solutions its members had to offer.
House and Senate leaders let the Democrats control the narrative, define the debate, and label any Republican opposition to the consolidation of Washington’s power as obstructionism. The Republicans appeared then as they do today — positively impotent.
Now that they have finally managed to do something that should have been done over a year ago — craft a coherent message — the Republicans have exacerbated their tardiness with their cowardice and offered their country a watered-down, unserious, and impotent version of the Tea Party’s platform.