Fight over GOP 'Pledge to America' sets scene for November election

In their radio addresses Saturday, President Obama and Rep. Kevin McCarthy focused on the Republican 'Pledge to America.' It sets the scene for the next month’s campaign rhetoric.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio announces the Republicans " Pledge to America" agenda, Thursday, Sept. 23. From left are, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Va., Boehner, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

In their radio addresses Saturday, President Obama and Republican designated hitter Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California duked it out over the GOP’s new “Pledge to America.”

"It is grounded in the same worn-out philosophy: cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; cut the rules for Wall Street and the special interests; and cut the middle class loose to fend for itself," Obama said.

Not so, countered McCarthy, one of the “pledge’s” authors:

"The new agenda embodies Americans' rejection of the notion that we can simply tax, borrow and spend our way to prosperity,” he said. “It offers a new way forward that hasn't been tried in Washington – an approach focused on cutting spending – which is sadly a new idea for a Congress accustomed to always accelerating it.”

As Monitor congressional correspondent Gail Russell Chaddock reported this week, the plan would permanently extend the Bush tax cuts, repeal and replace health-care reform, zero-out unspent stimulus funds, and roll back government spending to 2008 levels – before President George W. Bush bailed out banks or President Barack Obama signed a $789 billion stimulus package.

“The plan also aims to restore trust in Congress, now near historic lows, and boost national and border security, including fully funding missile defense, enforcing sanctions against Iran, and reaffirming the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws – a slap at the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Arizona,” Chaddock wrote.

Obama’s and McCarthy’s radio addresses focusing on the GOP "pledge" set the scene for the next month’s campaign rhetoric as Republicans try to wrest control of the US House (and possibly the Senate) from Democratic control. In recent weeks, those Saturday morning back-and-forths have gotten increasingly partisan as the two sides warmed up for the big event.

When McCarthy says “an approach focused on cutting spending…hasn't been tried in Washington,” he has to mean both parties. That’s certainly the view of the tea party movement, which has establishment Republicans and Democrats alike nervously looking over their shoulders.

“We’ve seen both parties ignore the needs of Americans while they concentrate on doing favors for the special interests that get them reelected,” House minority whip Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia writes in the new political manifesto “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders.”

That’s undoubtedly true. But remember the pledge to fight “waste, fraud, and abuse” back in the Reagan administration? How did that work out as federal budgets continued to grow? “Special interests,” after all, are in the eye of the beholder. Medicare, any one? Social Security? Farm subsidies? Defense contracts?

As the late Sen. Everett Dirksen might have said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.”

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