By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
Upon assuming control of the 112th Congress, John Boehner and fellow Republicans say they’re listening to the voice of the people.
Too bad they didn’t listen to Mary Poppins. She would have told them what to avoid at all costs: “No pie crust promises. Easily made. Easily broken.” Instead, Republicans littered the floor of the Capitol with pie crust promises, easily made and broken — on the very first day of the new legislative session.
Jobs. Campaigning in the midterm elections, Republicans pledged to make creation of jobs their number one priority. Promise broken. Instead, they immediately moved to repeal President Obama’s health care reform legislation. In his inaugural remarks, Speaker John Boehner did not mention job creation. Not even once.
Cut Spending. The centerpiece of the “Pledge to America” unveiled by House Republicans in September was a promise to cut $100 billion out of non-defense discretionary spending during their first year in power: a pledge repeated by Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Promise broken. This week, all three backed off, insisting the $100 billion figure was merely “hypothetical.”
Work for People. Again in his acceptance speech, John Boehner renewed his oft-stated pledge to “listen to the American people for a change.” Promise already broken. Last week, new Government Oversight Chair Darrell Issa sent a letter to 150 big corporations and lobbying firms, asking them to identify which federal regulations should be cancelled by Congress. Consumer and environmental protection organizations — which do, in fact, represent the people — were not consulted.
Right to Vote. Republicans didn’t wait long to deny one more opportunity for voices of the people to be heard. The very first vote of the 112th Congress was adoption of a new rule stripping representatives of the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianna Islands, and the Virgin Islands of their long-established right to vote whenever Congress convened as a “Committee of the Whole.” Two hundred and twenty five Republicans voted to change the rules and deny them the vote. One hundred and eighty-eight Democrats voted against it.
But nowhere were so many promises broken as in the way Republicans leaped into their doomed-to-fail efforts to roll back the clock on health care reform.
Repeal and replace. Campaigning in the midterms, Republican House and Senate candidates left no doubt about their plans on health care. “Repeal and replace it with a common-sense solution that will bend the cost-curve,” John Cornyn told “Meet the Press” last July. Again, promise broken. On opening day, Majority Leader Eric Cantor introduced legislation to repeal newly-enacted health insurance reform, and replace it with — nothing.
Transparency. No more log-rolling of important legislation, Boehner promised. Under his leadership, Republicans would insist on total transparency and open debate on all issues prior to any vote on the House floor. Another promise broken. The vote to repeal health care is scheduled for January 12, just one week after its introduction — with no public hearings, no debate, and no opportunity to offer amendments.
Pay-Go. For years, Republicans wrapped themselves in the cloak of fiscal responsibility, insisting that Congress not spend one dollar unless it’s offset by new taxes or spending cuts: a policy called “pay as you go.” Promise broken. They’ve already carved out an exemption for health care, even though the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repeal of health care reform legislation will increase the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years.
At the same time, under new rules adopted by Republicans on January 5, from now on pay-go will only apply to new spending, not to new tax cuts. But not all tax cuts are exempt, however — only those identified as worthwhile by GOP leaders. According to the rules, extended tax cuts for the wealthy, adopted in December, are protected. But expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which help middle-class and low-income families, are not.
Changing the Culture. Republican tea party candidates, especially, campaigned on a pledge to introduce a more austere tone to Washington. It didn’t take long to break that promise, either. GOP freshmen eagerly bellied up to the bar at the W Hotel for a lavish fundraiser, featuring country music star LeAnn Rimes — all paid for by lobbyists at $2,500 a head.
If you can’t trust Republicans to keep their promises longer than one day, what can you trust them with?
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.