Twenty years after Newt Gringrich launched the “Contract With America,” Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus presented a pablum of 11 vague “principles.” There’s a reason Republicans have gone milquetoast. It’s not that Republican’s aren’t for anything. It’s that Republicans can’t tell Americans what they are for — not if they want to have a shot at governing.
Here are the five worst things Republicans have promised to do.Slash Spending
Republican majorities in the House and Senate will team up to make sequestration look like amateur night. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said as much to a roomful of billionaires, at a secret meeting convened by the Koch Brothers.
“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan presented his budget in April, Sen. Richard Durbin (D, Illinois) thanked him “for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”
Here are a few reminders:
- Cut government spending by $5.1 trillion; with 69 percent of those cuts taken from programs that serve low-income and middle-class Americans.
- Cut welfare programs by $5.4 billion over 10 years.
- Turn Medicare into a voucher program, with “premium support” that shifts costs to the elderly.
- Cut Medicaid, and turn it into a block grant to states.
- Cut the Securities and Exchange Commission budget, leading to fewer regulators, and increasing the likelihood of another financial crisis.
Cut Social Security
Former House Majority Leader and Wall Street’s newest lackey Eric Cantor summed up the GOP agenda on Social Security during an NPR interview in 2011:
I mean, just from the very notion that it said that 50 percent of beneficiaries under the Social Security program use those monies as their sole source of income. So we’ve got to protect today’s seniors. But for the rest of us? For – you know, listen. We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be.
Republicans threatened to drive the US economy over the “financial cliff” unless their demands for cuts to Social Security benefits were met. Republican majorities in the House and Senate will take America to the brink again — maybe further.
Roll Back Finacial Reform
Americans are big fans of Wall Street regulation. Nearly 75 percent approve of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act passed in 2010. But Wall Street reform has remained in limbo, because congressional Republicans have obstructed implementation at almost every step.
- Republicans in Congress have introduced bills to slow the rule making process, and hold back funding for regulatory agencies.
- Litigators like Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, have further slowed the work of federal regulators.
- Republicans have tried to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [CFPB], an agency created solely to protect financial consumers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said, “If I had my way, we wouldn’t have the [CFPB] at all.”
- Around 8 million people have signed up for coverage on the exchanges, resulting in a 21 percent drop in the rate of uninsured Americans.
- Nearly all Obamacare enrollees are paying for coverage.
- The number of newly insured will reach 12 million by the end of the year.
- New York Republican congressional candidate Elise Stefanik called for repeal during the weekly Republican address.
- Sen. Ted Cruz said Republicans “should be about repealing every bloody word of Obamacare” during midterm elections.
- Michigan Republican congressional Candidate Terri Lynn Land signed a pledge to repeal Obamacare — and take health insurance away from 630,000 in her state. A number of Republican House and Senate candidates have signed, the “Obamacare Repeal Pledge,” sponsored by the conservative group Independent Women’s Voices.
- Iowa’s GOP Senate candidate Jodi Ernst backed a bill to nullify the Affordable Care Act, and even supported authorizing law enforcement to “arrest federal officials attempting to implement” Obamacare.
House Republicans have voted 55 times to repeal Obamacare. A Republican Senate will do the same, and deliver a repeal to President Obama. But how far are Republicans willing to go?
Shutdown … Again
Despite damaging their brand with the last shutdown, Republicans are likely to shut down the government again. Sen. Marco Rubio (R, Florida) is already pushing House Speaker John Boehner to force a post-election shutdown over Obamacare. Fourteen Republican Senators signed Rubio’s letter urging Boehner to use a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would require congressional approval for additional funding, as the basis for another shutdown.
The last shutdown cost the economy about $700 billion in lost economic activity, and 2 million jobs. The tea party caucus got almost nothing out of it. The GOP got nearly all the blame. Yet, Republicans want to take us there again.
These are just a few agenda items Republicans will try to force through, using the same threats, extortion, and obstruction they’ve used throughout Barack Obama’s presidency. The difference is that the Senate may no longer be a firewall against the worst excesses of the GOP. That job will fall to President Obama, his veto pen, and his willingness to use it.