The GOP Failure To Follow Through

September 22, 2010 8:02 pm ET — Mike Burns

After months of planning and indecision, Republicans will roll out their long-awaited "Pledge to America" tomorrow as they attempt to present their own governing agenda in the run-up to the midterm elections. The new plan, which draws parallels to the GOP's "Contract with America," will ostensibly serve to redefine the Republican Party and present it as a viable alternative to the Democratic-led Congress and Obama administration. According to Brendan Buck, spokesman for America Speaking Out, a project launched by House Republicans to give the GOP a policy platform to run on, "House Republicans have been listening to the American people, and we're going to put forth a positive agenda that focuses on solutions for the top priorities of the nation." 

But the GOP isn't addressing its problem with following through. Over the past year-and-a-half, Republicans have repeatedly tried, and failed, to launch initiatives in order to convince voters they have new ideas for how to solve the most important problems facing the nation. Time and again, GOPers have hyped their programs to be the greatest things since sliced bread, only to let them fade into obscurity, whether through laziness or ineptitude, not long after their inception. Even those proposals that are still floating around are nothing more than regurgitations of past policies that weren't helpful the first time and certainly aren't helpful now. While Republican leadership remains confident their "pledge" will cast the GOP as a party of fresh ideas, their past efforts tell a much different story. Observe:

  • Rep. Cantor's Policy Group Fades Into Nothingness. One year after its launch and after just one meeting, Rep. Eric Cantor's (R-VA) policy group, the National Council for a New America, was "suspended" in part because of negative attention it received from Democratic campaign committees and groups. According to, the group was ultimately "put on ice" after "ethics watchdog group CREW filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics seeking an investigation into whether Cantor and the organization violated House rules regarding funding for political organizations." But Cantor and his aides chose to blame those darn "liberals" and their "relentless attacks" for the group's lack of credibility. Surprised?
  • Rep. Ryan's "Roadmap" Mixes & Matches The Worst Policies of Bush and McCain. On January 27, 2010, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, released a "Roadmap for America's Future" budget proposal. But despite Ryan's efforts to frame the plan as fresh and new, a quick glance shows his ideas are simply mixed and matched from the worst policies of President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain.
  • House GOP Unveils Detail-Free Budget. In March 2009, the House GOP released its alternative to President Obama's budget. Well, sort of. As TPM points out, the budget "lacked nearly all the essential qualities of budget-ness"-i.e., numbers.
  • "GOP's preferred health care cure is no cure at all." On July 22, 2009, in a display of sheer audacity, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) reversed a previous pledge and admitted that the GOP's "Health Care Solutions Group" wouldn't offer an alternative health care bill because the "bill [was] never going to get to the floor, so why confuse the focus?" Yup. Why even attempt to offer a bill if there's a chance it won't be considered? In the wake of that stunning announcement, blogger Greg Sargent summed up the Republican Party's health care plan best: "the GOP's preferred health care cure is no cure at all."
  • "Lobbyists Speaking Out." Jesse Zwick of The Washington Independent reported that Republicans delayed the release of their agenda "until after the August recess, saying they needed time, via their America Speaking Out program, to ask voters to submit ideas on how to govern the county." But rather than speaking with average Americans and seeing their plan come into fruition, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) invited senior Republican lobbyists and trade group officials to the Capitol to offer their own suggestions for a new GOP agenda. Democrats quickly responded to this ridiculous move by mocking the initiative as "Lobbyists Speaking Out."

Now, there's nothing wrong with Republicans offering their own ideas on how to save the nation, or whatever. Maybe the unveiling of their new agenda will signal the start of a constructive debate that America so needs at this time of economic stress and uncertainty. But if history tells us anything, there's a good chance the "Pledge to America" will taper off before November and add another example to the Republican's already sizable pile of broken promises.