Keeping the Pledge to America: How Republicans Have Fought to Create Jobs, Cut Spending, & Change the Way Congress Does Business
On September 23, 2010, House Republicans gathered at a family-owned business in northern Virginia and issued a Pledge to America – a governing agenda built by listening to the American people and focused on addressing their top priorities.
Two years later, a look back shows that the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives has kept its Pledge – but that the fight continues across several fronts in a Democratic-controlled Washington. While House Republicans haven’t been afraid to take bold steps to address our country’s biggest challenges, President Obama’s failure to lead has become an obstacle to progress.
As we’ll show, the president’s Democratic-controlled Senate has blocked jobs bills while millions of Americans are jobless; failed to offer plans to save and strengthen critical entitlement programs while our debt has soared; and focused on gimmicks while trust in Washington remains at record lows. His failure to lead is evident when it comes to stopping all of the coming tax hikes and replacing the defense ‘sequester’ – here again the House has acted while the president and Senate Democrats have not.
Below you’ll find each section of the Pledge, the key promises contained within, and actions taken by the House to address them. After that, we provide a look at several other Pledge-related legislative victories for the American people that have been enacted into law. You can jump to each section here:
- Creating Jobs, Ending Economic Uncertainty, and Making America More Competitive
- Stopping Out of Control Spending and Reducing the Size of Government
- Repeal and Replace the Government Takeover of Health Care
- Reform Congress and Restore Trust
- Keep Our Nation Secure At Home and Abroad
- Checks and Balances
- Other Legislative Victories for the American People
In May 2011, House Republicans launched the Plan for America’s Job Creators, a Pledge to America-based pro-growth agenda aimed at removing government barriers to private-sector job creation. The House has passed dozens of jobs bills, including several that the president has signed into law – and 38 that remain blocked by Senate Democrats. You can see the full list of House-passed jobs bills here.
The House has kept its pledge to offer plans for creating jobs, ending economic uncertainty, and making America more competitive by voting to:
Permanently Stop All Job-Killing Tax Hikes: On December 16, 2010, the House passed and President Obama later signed legislation stopping all tax hikes for two years. On August 1, 2012, a bipartisan majority of the House passed H.R. 8 to stop all of the tax hikes for another year and protect more than 700,000 jobs. On August 2, 2012, the House passed H.R. 6169 to begin permanently fixing our tax code to help create jobs and bring home some of the jobs that have gone overseas. To date, Senate Democrats have taken no action to stop all of the tax hikes, and have instead ignored warnings from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and threatened to drive the country over the “fiscal cliff.”
Give Small Businesses a Tax Deduction: On April 18, 2012, the House passed the Small Business Tax Cut Act (H.R. 9), legislation giving small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income. To date, Senate Democrats have taken no action on H.R. 9.
Rein in the Red Tape Factory in Washington, DC: On December 7, 2011, the House passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 10), which requires Congressional approval of any new federal regulation with an annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more. The House has also passed several other bills eliminating excessive government regulations that hurt job growth and removing government obstacles to private-sector job growth. Learn more here. To date, Senate Democrats have taken no action on H.R. 10 or other legislation reining in red tape.
Repeal the Job-Killing Small Business Mandates: On March 3, 2011, the House passed the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act (H.R. 4) to repeal ObamaCare’s 1099 paperwork mandate on small businesses. The bill was passed by the Senate and signed into law on April 14, 2011.
Speaker John Boehner recently said “the threat to American jobs comes not from action on our debt, but from inaction on our debt.” That’s why Republicans have offered pro-growth proposals that “reduce spending, save Medicare, and reform other critical programs that are heading toward bankruptcy.” Through these actions, veteran reporter David Rogers says Republicans have pulled federal discretionary spending back to 2008 levels and that President Barack Obama entered 2012 “with no more purchasing power in many cases than his predecessor four years before.”
The House has kept its pledge to offer plans for stopping out of control spending and reducing the size of government by voting to:
Act Immediately to Reduce Spending: One of the first votes taken in the 112th Congress was to cut the House of Representatives’ budget by five percent, saving taxpayers about $35 million per year. In the second year of our majority, House Republicans cut Congress’ budget again, reducing the House budget by 10 percent over two years.
Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels: On March 29, 2012, the House approved a budget (H. Con. Res. 112) that would trim federal spending by more than $5 trillion over 10 years. The president’s budget, on the other hand, received zero votes in the House and Senate, and Senate Democrats haven’t proposed a budget in more than three years. House Republicans succeeded in forcing through the largest non-defense spending cut in American history, and in forcing Democrats to agree to spending cuts that exceeded the debt limit hike included in the Budget Control Act. The latter agreement reduced government spending by at least $2.1 trillion over 10 years. Here’s a look at other House efforts to cut spending, help create new jobs, and put us on a path to a balanced budget. As David Rogers noted, GOP efforts have brought us “very close to rolling back non-defense appropriations to the last year of the Bush administration.”
Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending: The Budget Control Act imposed tough caps to restrain future spending, including $21 billion in spending cuts this year and more in the years ahead (by $42 billion in 2013, $59 billion in 2014, $75 billion in 2015, $87 billion in 2016, and so on). These spending limits are critical to holding back the growth of government and giving the private sector a chance to grow and create jobs.
Cut Congress’ Budget: Leading by example, Republicans cut the House budget by 10 percent in just two years. And as Roll Call reported, the “overall legislative branch budget for fiscal 2012” is “5.2 percent below fiscal 2011 spending levels and 11.3 percent short of Congress’ own fiscal 2012 request.”
Hold Weekly Votes on Spending Cuts: Legislative action in the House during the 112th Congress has been dominated by House Republican efforts to control spending and crack down on waste. Republicans implemented CUTGO reforms requiring any bill containing a spending increase to be offset with a corresponding spending reduction of equal or greater size, and considered numerous spending bills with “open rules” allowing members to freely offer, debate, and vote on amendments to cut spending.
End TARP Once And For All: On March 10, 2011, the House passed H.R. 830 to begin the process of shutting down the TARP bailout program, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. The House also passed H.R. 839 to cancel a TARP program “beset by problems from the outset.” President Obama threatened to veto H.R. 830 and, to date Senate Democrats have taken no action on either piece of legislation.
End Government Control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: The House-passed budget for FY13 “ends the taxpayer bailouts of failed financial institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” Senate Democrats have not taken similar action.
Impose a Net Hiring Freeze on Non-Security Employees: The House-passed budget for FY13 would achieve “a 10 percent reduction over the next three years in the federal workforce through attrition.” According to the Washington Post, the budget “envisions a partial federal employee hiring freeze under which only one replacement could be hired for every three employees who leave.” Senate Democrats have not taken similar action.
Root Out Government Waste and Sunset Outdated & Duplicative Programs: House Republicans banned earmarks, and have passed – and the president has signed – legislation eliminating and consolidating dozens of federal programs (including more than 40 ineffective programs at the U.S. Department of Education alone). See here, here, and here. And the House-passed budget for FY13 called for “the elimination of dozens of wasteful and duplicative programs identified by non-partisan watchdogs and government auditors.”
Reform the Budget Process to Focus on Long-Term Challenges: The House adopted new rules for the 112th Congress featuring several reforms that shift the focus from raising taxes to cutting spending. The House has also passed a series of budget reforms to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely (or not at all). The Baseline Reform Act (H.R. 3578) ends the baseline budget bias toward big government spending. And the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act (H.R. 3582) requires the CBO to analyze the impact major pieces of legislation will have on economic growth and job creation. And the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act (H.R. 3581) institutes critical reforms to provide a more honest and transparent accounting of Washington’s finances. Senate Democrats have not taken similar action.
The government takeover of health care imposed by President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 is driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers. “We voted to fully repeal the president’s health care law as one of our first acts as a new House majority,” said Speaker Boehner, “And our plan remains to repeal the law in its entirety. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”
Republicans’ objective throughout the 112th Congress has been full repeal of the president’s health care law, followed by a step-by-step, common-sense approach to health care reform that begins with lowering costs. The House has fought to repeal and replace President Obama’s government takeover of health care by taking action to:
Repeal the Costly Health Care Takeover of 2010: The House has voted twice – once on January 19, 2011, and again on July 11, 2012 after the Supreme Court ruling – to fully repeal the president’s health care law. Senate Democrats have yet to take action on either. All together, the House has voted more than 30 times to repeal, defund and dismantle the law, and several of these measures repealing ObamaCare provisions or rescinding funding for them have been signed into law by President Obama.
Enact Medical Liability reform: On March 22, 2012, the House passed the Preserving Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act (H.R. 5), legislation that would enact much-needed medical liability reforms to curb junk lawsuits and bring down health care costs. Senate Democrats have yet to take action.
Allow for the Purchase of Health Insurance Across State Lines: The House Ways & Means Committee held hearings on the Health Care Choices Act (H.R. 371), legislation authored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), in preparation for legislative action on reforms that could be implemented after repeal of the president’s health care law.
Expand Health Savings Accounts: On June 7, 2012, the House passed the Protect Medical Innovation Act (H.R. 436) to increase flexibility for families using Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The bill also repealed the medical device tax that is threatening American jobs and sending companies overseas. Senate Democrats have yet to take action. The House Ways & Means Committee also passed the Health Savings Account Improvements Act (H.R. 5858), which makes common sense improvements to the eligibility, contribution and expenditure rules governing HSAs.
Strengthen the Doctor-Patient Relationship: On March 22, 2012, the House passed the Preserving Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act (H.R. 5), legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the president’s unelected health care rationing board of bureaucrats which would restrict treatment options and deny access to care. Senate Democrats have yet to take action.
Ensure Access for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions: The House-passed budget for FY13 would save and strengthen Medicare for seniors, and offer guaranteed coverage options to future seniors regardless of pre-existing conditions or health history. Republicans are committed to fully repealing the president’s health care law and enacting step-by-step, common-sense solutions to lower costs and address the problems in our nation’s health care system, including for those with pre-existing conditions.
Permanently Prohibit Taxpayer Funding of Abortion: On May 4, 2011, the House approved the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3) to codify the Hyde Amendment and apply a permanent ban on taxpayer funding of abortion across all federal programs. And on October 22, 2011, the House approved the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358) to apple the Hyde Amendment to the president’s government takeover of health care. These bills remain blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Under previous majorities, the House of Representatives had moved further away from its roots as a deliberative body and toward a more centralized power structure – one where opportunities for open debate were minimized, amendments were increasingly discouraged, and public scrutiny of legislation was avoided. During the final two years of the House majority under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), not a single bill was considered on the floor under an “open rule” allowing any Member the opportunity to offer amendments for debate and a vote. The Republican Majority has sought to change the way Congress does business, making the House more open and accountable, and listening to and acting on the priorities of the American people.
The House has kept its pledge to reform Congress and give people a greater voice in their Congress by voting to:
Read the Bill: One of the first votes taken in January 2011 was to adopt new rules to ensure that legislation is posted online at least three calendar days before a vote, with common-sense exceptions for emergencies.
Adhere to the Constitution: Under the new rules adopted at the beginning of the 112th Congress, every piece of legislation must contain a statement of Constitutional authority. If a lawmaker can’t explain how a proposal is Constitutional, it doesn’t come to a vote. The Constitution was also read aloud on the House floor for the first in American history.
Make It Easier to Cut Spending: The new cut-as-you-go (“CUTGO”) rule requires any new mandatory spending be offset with spending cuts – not tax hikes. Click here for a look at other reforms to the budget process in the House rules. The House has used an open process for debate on all major spending bills, making it easier than ever for lawmakers to trim spending and participate (see here for example). There wasn’t a single “open rule” under the previous Democratic-controlled majority. In his remarks to the House on the opening day of the 112th Congress, Speaker Boehner vowed to change this, and the pledge has been kept.
Advance Legislative Issues One at a Time: The House has made tremendous progress toward addressing issues one at a time as opposed to in “comprehensive” packages such as the president’s massive health care law, and Republicans – heeding the will of the American people – refused to repeat the Democrats’ mistake, on health care and other key issues. On jobs, for example, rather than pass a single, massive bill like President Obama’s failed “stimulus” legislation, the House passed a steady stream of individual jobs-focused bills, one at a time, usually sending them over to the Senate with bipartisan support. Frequent inaction by the Democratic-controlled Senate has occasionally required critical legislation to be passed in tandem, but the contrast has been clear, and the new approach in the House has been a vital part of making the legislative process more open and accountable.
The White House proposed massive, arbitrary cuts to our military because President Obama didn’t want to deal with another debt limit debate before his re-election campaign. In May, the House voted to protect our troops and our national security by replacing this defense ‘sequester’ with common-sense spending cuts and reforms. You can see them here. Throughout the 112th Congress, the House has worked to ensure the federal government fulfills its responsibility to provide for a robust defense.
The House has kept its pledge to keep our nation secure at home and abroad by voting to:
Pass Clean Troop Funding Bills: The House has ended the practice of adding unpopular and unrelated measures to legislation that provides funding for America’s troops and our national security.
Keep Terrorists Out of America: The National Defense Authorization Act for FY12 and FY13 both prohibited the transfer of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States. The FY12 legislation, H.R. 1540, was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011.
Demand an Overarching Detention Policy: Several House committee chairmen called on President Obama “to define his Administration’s policies on interrogation, detention, and prosecution of terrorists.” The president later signed the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540), which prohibited the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States. The FY13 NDAA has similar provisions to keep terrorists off U.S. soil and protect the Constitutional rights of Americans.
Fully Fund Missile Defense: The FY12 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House increased funding for missile defense by $109.7 million above the president’s request. This was signed into law on December 31, 2011. Then on May 18, 2012, the House passed the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) which provides further funding for “a robust national missile defense,” including $100 million for a missile defense site on the East Coast to protect against threats from Iran.
Require Tough Enforcement of Sanctions Against Iran: On August 1, 2012, the House passed the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905) which strengthened U.S. sanctions against Iran in order to force the regime to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Senate passed and the president signed H.R. 1905 into law. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said, “Now that he has signed this bill, President Obama must vigorously enforce and implement its provisions.”
Establish Operational Control of the Border: On May 30, 2012, the House passed the Secure Border Act (H.R. 1299) which requires the Obama administration to outline a strategy for getting operational control of our borders. The House will also be voting on the Border Security Information Improvement Act (H.R. 6368) which requires the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to report to Congress on cross-border violence along the southwest border.
Work With State and Local Officials to Enforce Our Immigration Laws: On June 7, 2012, the House passed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), which included funding for Section 287(g) grants that go to state and local officials for enforcement of immigration laws. The House Judiciary Committee has also conducted aggressive oversight of the Obama Administration’s lawsuit against Arizona, and attempts by the White House to cut funding needed to assist state and local officials.
Strengthen Visa Security: The House Judiciary Committee passed the Secure Visas Act (H.R. 1741) which makes the visa process more secure, and helps prevent terrorists from obtaining U.S. visas and allows U.S. officials to expedite the removal of terrorists whose visas have been revoked. The committee is working to offset the cost of the measure before it comes to a vote in the House.
Republicans also pledge to “serve as a check and a balance against any schemes that are inconsistent with the priorities and rights of the American people,” and to work to change the metrics by which a Congress is held accountable. With that in mind, the House has kept its pledge to:
Fight to ensure transparency and accountability in Congress and throughout government: The House has taken numerous steps to make itself more open and accountable: legislative documents are posted online in XML on docs.House.gov and efforts are underway to provide bulk access; the House floor, committee hearings, and Speaker events are streamed live; mobile apps (here and here) make Congressional information more accessible; digital tools have been embraced by lawmakers to lower costs and better connect with constituents; media access inside Congress was expanded; and more.
Continue to fight the growth of government and oppose new stimulus spending that only puts our nation further in debt: Instead of more rounds of failed ‘stimulus’-style spending as proposed by President Obama, the House has enacted legislation that eliminates and reforms federal government programs, and passed legislation that removes government barriers to job growth and addresses our ever-growing debt.
Fight efforts to fund the costly new health care law: The House-passed budgets this year (H.Con.Res. 112) and last (H.Con.Res. 34) fully repeal and defund the government takeover of health care. Several amendments to H.R. 1 would prohibit funding from being used to implement or enforce provisions of the law. While Senate Democrats haven’t passed similar legislation, the House successfully repealed several of the health care law’s slush funds and programs in other spending agreements.
Fight to increase access to domestic energy sources and oppose attempts to impose a national “cap and trade” energy tax: On April 7, 2011, the House passed the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910) to prevent the Obama administration from imposing a back-door national energy tax. As part of the new American Energy Initiative, the House has also passed several bills to unlock America’s vast energy resources, address high prices, and help create thousands of new jobs. Here’s a look. And the No More Solyndras Act (H.R. 6213) would protect taxpayers by winding down the administration’s failed energy loan program. To date, Senate Democrats have taken no action on H.R. 910 or any of the other House-passed energy and jobs bills.
Fight for the rights of workers and oppose “card check” schemes that put Washington union bosses before individuals’ right to a secret ballot: On November 30, 2011, the House passed the Workforce Democracy & Fairness Act (H.R. 3094) to protect workers from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regulations that allowed for “ambush elections” and “regulatory card check.” The House also passed the Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act (H.R. 2587), which would protect jobs by preventing the NLRB from telling employers where they can and can’t hire new workers. To date, Senate Democrats have taken action on neither bill.
Fight efforts to use a national crisis for political gain: While President Obama has created controversy where there was none and wasted valuable time on gimmicks, the House of Representatives has remained focused on keeping its Pledge to America. And while parts of the Pledge remain a work-in-progress, our success requires a responsible U.S. Senate and leadership from the White House – two things completely lacking in Washington.
Republicans will continue working to keep our Pledge, to “solve our problems for the common good,” and to “uphold the purpose and promise of a better America” for all.
By keeping their Pledge to “advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity,” House Republicans have overcome an inactive Senate and an election-focused White House to win several other important victories for the American people. For example:
- On November 18, 2010, House Republicans unanimously adopted a measure by freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) to ban earmarks.
- The JOBS Act (H.R. 3606) – which is focused on removing government barriers that hurt small businesses, entrepreneurs, and job creators – is now law.
- The America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) – which modernizes America’s patent system for innovators and job creators – is now law.
- The landmark school choice program for students in Washington, DC was re-instated despite continued efforts by the Obama administration to shut it down.
- Three long-delayed trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea – all of which are critical to future U.S. job creation, and were stalled indefinitely under a Democratic majority – are now law.
- Legislation repealing the three percent IRS withholding tax and removing bureaucratic obstacles that keep veterans from finding work is now law.
- An infrastructure reform bill that cut red tape, ensured taxpayer dollars will go toward high-priority infrastructure projects (not bike paths and beautification), and that give states more flexibility with transportation dollars is now law.
- Legislation stopping student loan rates from doubling – at a time when half of recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed – was enacted in a responsible way and paid for without raising taxes or adding to the deficit.
- The FAA Modernization & Reform Act (H.R. 2553) – which includes long-overdue reforms to the National Mediation Board (NMB) aimed at helping the economy and removing barriers to job creation – is now law.
- The FDA Safety and Innovation Act (H.R. 5651) – which will facilitate the review and approval of life-saving and life-improving drugs and medical devices and help promote an environment for American innovation and job growth – is now law.
- Legislation providing for spectrum auctions to advance wireless broadband service, bring interoperable broadband communications to public safety officials, and create jobs – consistent with the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act – is now law.
- Unemployment insurance reforms that implement job search requirements, drug screening, and re-employment programs, while bringing the allowable amount of benefits into line with levels typically seen in a recession, are now law.