Republicans

THE ATLANTIC: Does the GOP Have a Tea Party Problem?

By Chris Good

A question hovering around the tea party movement has been: will it hurt Republicans at the polls in November, generating third-party candidates and sucking votes away from the GOP?

Polling released this past week by Quinnipiac says this is a possibility: with tea party candidates running in a generic race, Republicans go from winners to losers, with just 25% of the vote. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for its part, has put together a list of races involving conservative challengers, some running as third-party candidates, advertised as “Palin’s Primaries.”

I don’t know the answer to this question for sure, but I do know this: top tea party organizers are not interested in supporting third-party candidates, or in forming official Tea Party political parties in states, which means it’s unlikely we’ll see an organized movement to form Tea Parties and make trouble in GOP-stronghold districts.

In other words: the tea party movement won’t rise up to challenge the GOP, on a national scale, any time soon.

“Personally, I think it’s better to run within the established parties and try to change the parties,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national co-chair of the group Tea Party Patriots. Martin’s group claims to have 15 million members; after surveying local organizers, Tea Party Patriots leaders put out a statement making clear that it did not support the formation of a Tea Party political party.

With guidance from the Dick Armey-led FreedomWorks, the tea party movement figures to target, in organized fashion, about four House races and four Senate races this fall. None of those include third-party bids.

As far as third-party candidates go, it’s more likely that individuals will decide to run, without the encouragement of state or national organizers, seeking to claim the tea party mantle.

But it’s questionable whether such candidates would garner enough support to make a difference, despite the findings from Quinnipiac. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you like the idea of a tea party candidate–and, to be sure, some conservatives are upset with the Republican Party, based on TARP and Bush-era spending–but another thing to vote for a candidate who is polling low, especially if a Republican candidate has tacked sufficiently to the right.

We saw a tea partier run in the Massachusetts Senate race, but Joe Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedy family, or to the other Joe Kennedy) only got 1% of the vote.

Continue reading at The Atlantic

GOP Testing a New Contract With America

By Paul Bedard

With public and internal polls showing the likelihood of a huge Republican voter swing in the fall, party officials are now testing the need for and the issues that would be included in an election agenda like the 1994 Contract With America.

One of the key findings by party officials quizzing the public so far: Voters would like a list of changes the Republicans would bring if installed as the majority in the House or Senate or both. “There would be a market” for a new contract, says a top official.

Both the House and the Senate GOP have tasked members to reach outside the beltway to draw up ideas that could be included in a new contract. And Tea Party members working with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks are drawing up a similar “Contract From America.”

Continue reading at U.S. News & World Report

SCRIPPS NEWS: Republicans Look for New Contract to Help Regain Congress

WASHINGTON – Republicans are so convinced that the fall midterm elections could be a repeat of 1994, the year that ushered them into the majority in Congress, they are reaching into the playbook for the prop that helped propel that victory: a new Contract with America.

House Republicans have tapped one of their own to begin casting for ideas to form a 10-point legislative to-do list, promises candidates would make to voters this fall.

Only problem is, the Tea Party movement beat them to it.

For months, Tea Party activists have been crafting a Contract from America, a soon-to-be released document from the renegade conservative movement.

Not to be outdone, a cadre of old-guard conservatives headed by former Attorney General Edwin Meese and backed by the conservative Heritage Foundation this month launched a broad decree known as the Mount Vernon Statement.

For a political party being criticized as the party of no, the flurry of manifestos offers an aggressive effort to stand for something.

“There is a perception that the 1994 Contract with America contributed to the Republican victory, and a lot of people on the conservative side of the aisle want history to repeat itself,” said John Pitney, a former Republican operative who is now a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

“They’re also aware they need to be for something,” he said. “They want to define themselves rather than let the other side define them.”

The original Contract with America was essentially a small-government 10-step program – a “detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print,” it said.

The now almost legendary document championed by then-Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia outlined a series of legislative proposals Republican candidates vowed to bring to the House floor for a vote, if elected.

Continue reading at Scripps News

NEW YORK TIMES: Tea Party Avoids Divisive Social Issues

By Kate Zernike

For decades, faith and family have been at the center of the conservative movement. But as the Tea Party infuses conservatism with new energy, its leaders deliberately avoid discussion of issues like gay marriage or abortion.

God, life and family get little if any mention in statements or manifestos. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, a large coalition of groups, is “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Independence Caucus questionnaire, which many Tea Party groups use to evaluate candidates, poses 80 questions, most on the proper role of government, tax policy and the federal budgeting process, and virtually none on social issues.

The Contract From America, which is being created Wiki-style by Internet contributors as a manifesto of what “the people” want government to do, also mentions little in the way of social issues, beyond a declaration that parents should be given choice in how to educate their children. By contrast, the document it aims to improve upon — the Contract With America, which Republicans used to market their successful campaign to win a majority in Congress in 1994 — was prefaced with the promise that the party would lead a Congress that “respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.”

Tea Party leaders argue that the country can ill afford the discussion about social issues when it is passing on enormous debts to future generations. But the focus is also strategic: leaders think they can attract independent voters if they stay away from divisive issues.

“We should be creating the biggest tent possible around the economic conservative issue,” said Ryan Hecker, the organizer behind the Contract From America. “I think social issues may matter to particular individuals, but at the end of the day, the movement should be agnostic about it. This is a movement that rose largely because of the Republican Party failing to deliver on being representative of the economic conservative ideology. To include social issues would be beside the point.”

As the Tea Party pushes to change the Republican Party, the purity they demand of candidates may have more to do with economic conservatism than social conservatism. Some Tea Party groups, for instance, have declined to endorse J. D. Hayworth, who has claimed the mantle of a fiscal conservative, in the Republican Senate primary in Arizona. But these groups find his record in Congress no more fiscally responsible than the man he seeks to oust, John McCain.

The Tea Party defines economic conservatism more strictly than most Republicans in Congress would — the Tea Party agrees about the need to do away with earmarks, but the Contract, for example, also includes a proposal to scrap the tax code and replace it with one no longer than 4,543 words (a number chosen to match the length of the Constitution, unamended.) It would limit the growth of federal spending to inflation plus the percentage of population growth and require a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.

Social issues still pack a wallop: a group of Democrats opposed to abortion rights could determine the fate of health care legislation in the House. And Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, while celebrating the Tea Party for energizing their movement, spent much of their time talking about banning gay marriage and overturning Roe v. Wade. “God’s in charge,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota told a cheering crowd.

Tea Party leaders themselves have found it hard to keep the issues out. The inaugural Tea Party convention, organized by the social networking site Tea Party Nation, featured remarks by fervent opponents of gay marriage and abortion rights, including the Baptist pastor Rick Scarborough And some leaders criticized Sarah Palin — normally a Tea Party favorite — for advocating “divine intervention” to help the country.

Jenny Beth Martin, the leader of the Tea Party Patriots, complained that she spent the days after the convention answering questions about social issues.

“When people ask about them, we say, ‘Go get involved in other organizations that already deal with social issues very well,’ ” she said. “We have to be diligent and stay on message.”

Many Tea Party members do embrace those issues. The subset of Tea Party organizations known as 9/12 groups, founded by Glenn Beck, asks members to embrace seven of nine principles, the second of which is “I believe in God and he is the center of my life.”

Continue reading at the New York Times

NEWSWEEK: Rep. Kevin McCarthy Concocting his Own Plan to Take Back the House

By Michael Hirsh

Rep. Kevin McCarthy laughs at the idea that he’s trying to resurrect the “Contract With America.” “No sequel, outside of The Godfather II, ever did better than the original,” he jokes. But the second-term congressman from Bakers-field, Calif., a sunny salt-of-the-earth type who used to run a sandwich shop, has been tasked with orchestrating the next Republican revolution. So he’s doing his best to learn from the last one. McCarthy’s project has a slightly different name—the “Commitment to -America”—but his mission is essentially the same as the one pursued by GOP revolutionaries in 1994: to come up with a simple program for action that will redefine the Republican Party and bring it back to power.

“One of the things I first did, I went back and talked to everybody” involved with the 1994 campaign, says McCarthy, one of the party’s self-described “young guns.” Newt Gingrich, the mastermind of the ’94 GOP takeover of the House, was at the top of his list. McCarthy wanted to hear how he might repeat Gingrich’s success, but without seeming like a tiresome impersonator. “This is a different world,” says Gingrich. “Every dance has its own rules. The anger is much greater now than it was before. People are tired of the whole process in Washington.”

There are, it is true, unmistakable similarities between the two eras. The Republican leaders who designed the “Contract With America”—a 10-point program that included a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget—sought to -capitalize on a broad disgust with Washington, reflected at the time in the 19 percent vote that third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot won in 1992. Then, as now, the Republicans were trying to exploit a backlash against big government. It was Hillarycare in ’94; now it’s Obamacare.

But even as McCarthy seeks to recapture the mojo of ’94, he and other Republicans recognize that the differences between now and then are probably much greater than the similarities. For starters, says former House majority leader Dick Armey, a key member of the Gingrich contract team, “in ’94 we didn’t have a single person in America that could remember having been disappointed [by] a Republican majority” in the House. (At the time, Republicans hadn’t controlled the House in 39 years.) “Then we just had to say, ‘We’re not them.’ Now we have to say, ‘We’re not them—and by the way, we’re not the same Republicans who just broke your heart a few years ago.’?” It’s a sign of the tougher new environment that Republicans have failed so far to exploit fully the -antigovernment rage behind the tea-party movement: even Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman who has made his name fighting big government, is seen as too inside the Beltway by some tea partiers.

It was no surprise to anyone when, late last year, House Minority Leader John Boehner assigned McCarthy, the Republican deputy whip, to de-sign a new program to help the GOP overcome its reputation as “the party of no.” While McCarthy is not as intellectual as Gingrich, a former college professor, the 45-year-old former fireman can display an almost Gingrichian wonkishness and creativity. (He just flew out to Seattle to talk with Microsoft executives about adapting software that NASA uses to map the moon in order to map the new political landscape.) Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, says, “If you were going to franchise Newt like McDonald’s, McCarthy would be the flagship restaurant. He completely spills over with ideas…He knows districts around the country from memory.”

Still, no one in the GOP today can really fill the outsize role of Gingrich (as McCarthy is the first to admit). In ’94 Gingrich “became the golden arches,” says Rich Galen, Gingrich’s former spokesman. “All you had to say was ‘Newt Gingrich’ and everything followed from that. Neither Boehner nor [Republican Senate leader Mitch] McConnell nor anybody else has been a Gingrich. They don’t have the intelligence or the capacity. That is probably the biggest difference between 2010 and 1994.”

Not even Newt is Newt anymore. An older and grayer Gingrich is still around, and still angling to define the GOP agenda on his own. But he’s out of office and sapped of the influence he once had. Armey, head of an activist group called FreedomWorks, is -himself endorsing an alternative grassroots approach he’s calling the Contract From America. “Bless their hearts,” he says of McCarthy and Boehner. “They’re making a good effort. But I don’t think the political space is there for them to offer a contract.”

Continue reading at Newsweek

“All of the Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs.

SUMMARY

Energy is the stuff of life. With it, we can accomplish practically anything; we grow food, make necessities, provide warmth and shelter and comfort, education and entertainment. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates U.S. supplies at 117 billion barrels of oil and 651 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, on shore and off. This is enough oil to replace entirely our OPEC imports for more than 50 years, and enough natural gas to supply all U.S. needs for more than 30 years. That’s not counting our even more vast supplies of coal, counting in the centuries. We must no longer deny ourselves access to our most productive and affordable energy types.

The BLM found that 60 percent of the onshore federal lands with potentially significant domestic amounts of natural gas and crude are politically inaccessible. We as a nation are sitting on vast deposits of oil and natural gas that we could be using to reduce our imports. Increasingly, our coal reserves are subject to similar political constraints, even as we pour billions into clean coal technologies.

~ Tom Tanton, Pacific Research Institute

End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (Mark Meckler, Sacramento, CA)

SUMMARY

Since 2001, federal spending has grown 51 percent faster than inflation, and now stands at $29,813 per household. President Obama’s budget could push real federal spending above $37,000 per household by the end of this decade. Taxpayers clearly cannot afford to fund this level of spending.

Families and businesses are tightening their belts and capping their spending. Yet Congress is not subject to any statutory spending caps. Entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare grow 7 percent annually on autopilot with no Congressional oversight. Discretionary spending is budgeted annually (at growth rates recently averaging 8 percent), yet Congress bypasses even those minor restraints by declaring any additional spending “emergencies.”

The only way to force lawmakers to set priorities and make trade-offs is to enact a law capping the growth of the federal government to the inflation rate plus population growth (approximately 3.5 percent annually). No more blank checks, no programs on autopilot, all programs competing against each other for tax dollars. Any additional spending should require a 2/3 supermajority vote (which should be reachable during a real emergency). Such a spending cap – starting from the pre-recession 2008 spending levels – could likely balance the budget by 2020 without tax increases. It’s a vital step towards protecting the family budget from the federal budget.

~ Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation

Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care. Make health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.

SUMMARY

One of the defining moments in the formation of the Tea Party movement was the opposition to government-run health care. The antithesis to government-run health care is a competitive, free market system that puts patients first. Over 84% of Americans already have health insurance, and 75% of those are satisfied with the care they receive. Enacting real health reform that keeps costs in check not only satisfies the majority, it also makes health care more affordable for those who don’t have coverage. Competition thrives when the barriers to entry are low, uncertainty is eliminated, innovation flourishes and customers are free to choose from a range of options. Together, these factors put downward pressure on costs.

Congress could easily and cheaply enact health reform laws that allow insurers to compete across state lines. In so doing, burdensome regulations that differ from state to state would be streamlined so that all insurers could compete on a level playing field. New competition rewards the most innovative companies, and customers would have a wider range of coverage options. The end result is patients will have more freedom, more choices, and a competitive system with built-in incentives to control costs and stay competitive.

~ Rick Scott, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights

Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (Proposed by: Brooke Storrs, Midland, MI)

SUMMARY

For too long, Congress has been passing bills with little or no constitutional authority. Legislative counsel have twisted provisions like the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause beyond all recognition, not tying congressional authority to any particular power enumerated in Article I. Going forward, Congress should only be allowed to exercise powers that directly and plainly flow from a specific constitutional grant of authority.

~ Ilya Shaprio, Cato Institute

FairTax, Flat Tax, and the Need for Fundamental Tax Reform

Our nation faces many important issues, of which the Contract from America will offer a handful of actionable solutions that can reasonably and immediately be addressed by those who seek to represent Americans in Congress.

For many Americans, the need for fundamental tax reform is front and center. They recognize our tax system has evolved into an unfair punitive government mechanism to redistribute wealth and serve special interests.

Many interesting ideas, including the FairTax and the flat tax, have been offered as potential solutions to our broken tax system. At first glance, some of these ideas reflect competing interests. However, the common goal and first priority of those interests should be to raise the profile of the need for fundamental tax reform, sustain a national dialogue on the issue, and allow various solutions to compete with one another in the marketplace of ideas. Those ideas will rise and fall based on the merits, with the very best ideas naturally rising to the top.

Importantly, FairTax is a founding coalition partner of the Contract from America. Based on survey responses, comments on the orignal Contract from America site, and discussions with Neal Boortz and Ken Hoagland, we agreed to unite behind the notion of fundamental tax reform broadly and deal with the FairTax / flat tax debate once fundamental tax reform is squarely on the national agenda.

What about all of the support for the FairTax during the early stages of the Contract from America initiative? Why isn’t the FairTax or the flat tax specifically mentioned in the current choices on the Contract from America?

When this effort began, the original website made clear that the early stages of the process would be used to generate ideas and engage in debate. Visitors could vote on ideas and advance issues important to them in ways that were virtually unrestricted.

For example, highly engaged activists often returned to the site over and over to promote and support their favorite ideas. While some had the support of well-organized efforts, others (that were often just as compelling) were buried under mountains of political discourse.

In addition, the process offered a four month window of opportunity to introduce and debate ideas. Those that were introduced early in the process had a significant advantage over those that were introduced in the final weeks. With few exceptions, specific ideas introduced early received more votes.

The most important part of the early stage of the process was to identify the issues that truly resonated with Americans and the need for fundamental tax reform was identified as one such issue. With regard to the specific proposals of FairTax and the flat tax (not to mention other compelling proposals), we concluded that to choose one over the other at this early stage will only serve to divide rather than unite us on a critical issue impacting every single American.

In the end, there are hundreds of important issues and only the Constitution is well-suited to address them all in a manner consistent with the values of the Founding Fathers.

Americans will continue to weigh in on the issues important to them and the Contract from America will become a stronger, more refined document as a result.

Reform is a process. The Contract from America is part of that process. It cannot possibly be all things to all people, but it can help refocus the national debate, and offer a tool to hold elected officials more accountable in 2010 and beyond.