Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said that a Republican-controlled Congress “will never go back to business as usual.”
“The Pledge is an agenda for this Congress, and Republicans have already unilaterally banned earmarks in the House,” Smith said. “While we wish Democrats had joined us, House Republicans earmark moratorium has been a success because we saw less money spent on fewer earmarks.”
“And we showed that changing this system is possible – and, after that, we will never go back to business as usual,” Smith said.
But earmarks isn’t the only sore point for GOP conservatives.
The proposal that health insurance companies be required to provide coverage to all regardless of preexisting conditions – which many argue would require a mandate for universal coverage to offset rising costs – flabbergasted some of the more conservative Republican lawmakers.
Others, such as Yuval Levin, have argued on National Review’s website that the the provision “does not create an added incentive for healthy people to avoid getting insurance, and so absolutely would not involve an individual mandate.”
And GOP leadership told members that they would not include a balanced budget amendment promise because such a pledge would be “too hard.”
GOP staffers gave mixed responses on how widespread unhappiness is within the House Republican lawmakers.
“Overall I think people are pretty happy, pretty satisfied. There are some pretty decent ideas in there,” one senior Republican aide said. “But a lot of folks are saying, this isn’t exactly an agenda to storm the castle with. This may not convince the Tea Party folks that we’ve learned our lesson.”
Another said discontent is “pretty widespread.”
“If you did a poll today you’re not going to get that. But I think members are in this period right now where they feel like they need to salute and not have articles about dissension in the ranks,” the Republican staffer said.
In addition to the prearranged National Review editorial, objections and complaints were blunted and pacified by the GOP leadership’s lengthy and extensive listening tour that they conducted with many of their members, which began months ago. By the time members went home for August recess, a draft of the document already existed, and leadership knew pretty much what they wanted it to say, but they continued to solicit input from members.
“There was a lot of participation sought but I think there was always a sense of where the top leaders, particularly Boehner, Cantor, and [Kevin] McCarthy and their staff wanted to go on this,” a staffer said.
The key staff who wrote the document were Mike Sommers from Boehner’s office, Bradley from Cantor’s, and Brian Wild, a Boehner staff essentially on loan to McCarthy whose lobbying past drew attention earlier this week.
Lawmakers such as Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Price of Georgia, and Steve King of Iowa were upset that there was no balanced budget amendment. Jeff Flake of Arizona was one of several who pushed for a ban on earmarks. And Mike Pence of Indiana led the charge for the social values groups, battling Boehner’s office, who wanted all mention of gay marriage out. There was also talk of removing the portion that called for codifying the Hyde Amendment and permanently ending the taxpayer funding of abortion.
According to outside groups, Boehner’s office – particularly chief of staff Barry Jackson – wanted to keep any mention of gay marriage out of the document all together. But in the end, groups such as the Family Research Council and the American Principles Project succeeded in getting at least a vague promise “to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.”
*Cantor aide Neil Bradley was originally identified as an aide to Boehner.