The Tea Party and the New GOP Contract by Gregory Hilton

House Republican Leader John Boehner (OH) is continuing to advocate a new GOP manifesto. A name has not been selected but the document is expected to be similar to the 1994 Contract With America, which was developed by then House Whip Newt Gingrich (R-GA). The original Contract was the focal point of a campaign which resulted in Republican capture of both the House and Senate.
The New GOP Contract
The tentative plan is to have a new document ready by mid-September. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) is supportive and the project is being coordinated by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Barry Jackson of Boehner’s staff. McCarthy says the upcoming manifesto will be “a clear plan on how to change the culture of this House and put America back on the right track in focusing on jobs and spending.”
The project has been in the planning stage for six months, but it is still being opposed by a few senior House Republicans. They believe the GOP already has more than enough ammunition for the Fall campaign. They also believe former Speaker Gingrich made a mistake in advocating term limits, and they hope the ban on earmarks will only apply to the 112th Congress.
Boehner is highly motivated to produce a new contract because he is expecting a leadership challenge after the election. If a new manifesto is not developed, this will be one of the primary accusations against his continued leadership.
A manifesto is easy to approve in concept, but there is considerable disagreement regarding initiatives the GOP would be endorsing. Lawmakers view this as a major policy commitment and it would be “A promise that if Republicans are given control, the following acts will be brought to a vote in the 112th Congress.”
The first item would be the GOP’s alternative version of health care reform, and the second would propose deficit reduction targets without naming specific programs. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) road map to a balanced budget would not be included.
An energy security section would strongly endorse nuclear power but no decision has been made regarding Sen. John McCain’s (AZ) proposal to build 100 new plants. Repeal of the estate tax and making the Bush tax cuts permanent are also high priority items.
Behind the scenes, GOP lawmakers say the single most powerful job-creator would be an across-the-board corporate tax cut, including cash expensing for investment. The concern is that this might result in renewed Democratic accusations that Republicans are the party of big business.
The Contract From America
Boehner’s effort should not be confused with the 10 point “Contract From America,” which was released on April 15th. This is being referred to as the Tea Party Contract and its first provision says it will: “Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.”
The Tea Party Contract has been endorsed by Senators Jim DeMint (SC) and Tom Coburn (OK). It also has the backing of 11 Members of Congress as well as Senate candidates such as Dino Rossi (WA), Dan Coats (IN), Jane Norton (CO), Sharron Angle (NV), Ron Johnson (WI), Jerry Moran (KS), Marco Rubio (FL) and John Boozman (AR).
The “Founding Partners” of the Contract From America include organizations such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers’ Union, and Gingrich’s American Solutions.
Few lawmakers will speak on the record, but part of the attraction of the Tea Party movement for the GOP is that these groups are not emphasizing social and religious issues. According to survey data, social issues have in the past driven independent voters away from the Republican Party.
The Tea Party and the Conservative Leadership
Rep. Boehner and Sen. McConnell say they support the effort, but they are not signing the Contract From America. Conservative leaders such as Michele Bachmann (MN), the head of the Tea Party Caucus, and House Conference Chairman Mike Pence (IN) are also not signing the document.
Notable Senate candidates who have not signed the Tea Party contract are Carly Fiorina (CA), Roy Blunt (MO), Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk (IL), Rob Portman (OH) and Pat Toomey (PA). Senate candidate Rand Paul (KY) has signed the contract but because of its earmark ban, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will not sign it.
Chairman Bachmann of the Tax Party Caucus said Rand Paul was her inspiration in forming the group. He told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he wanted to form a Tea Party Caucus in the Senate, and Bachmann thought it would be a good idea to start in the House.
She told Fox News the Caucus is “an ear piece for the various Tea Party organizations, but not a mouth piece. We’re not trying in any way to be their spokesperson.” Nevertheless, the Caucus could well become the mouth piece because there never has been a spokesman for the tea party movement.
It is now expected that reporters will go to Bachmann when they are seeking a tea party reaction to a story. The members of her Caucus are in large part not signing the Contract From America. A lawmaker who spoke on a background basis noted, “We already have a Contract From America, it’s called the Constitution.” The same lawmaker said the Tea Party Contract was poorly drafted.
House Leader Boehner is supportive of the new Caucus, and says the Tea Party groups are impressive:

Last Labor Day weekend they had a rally with 18,000 people about a mile from my home. That requires an outstanding organization. We should listen to them, we should work with them and we should walk amongst them.

Controversy for Republicans
Rep. Bachmann says the new Caucus will not vouch for or police the various Tea Party groups. She was referring to the Tea Party Express and its founder and leader Mark Williams.
Tea Party Express had a key role in the primary victory of Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV), but both Williams and his group were later expelled from the National Tea Party Federation.
Williams was tossed out after he made many controversial statements and said Muslims worship a “monkey god.” He called President Obama an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug.”
Several GOP candidates asked to speak at rallies organized by the North Iowa Tea Party but they were later embarrassed by the organizations billboard which compared President Obama to Adolph Hitler and Vladimir Lenin. The Iowa Tea Party movement asked the group to remove the billboard which they describe as a “borderline hate crime.”
Reaction From The Democrats
Rep. Walt Minnick (ID) is the only Democrat who was personally invited to join the Tea Party Caucus but declined. His campaign website featured the endorsement of the Tea Party Express, but he later rejected the group’s backing when Mark Williams comments about the President were reported in the news media.
The Tea Party movement was a major topic over the weekend at the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas. Over 2,100 liberal bloggers participated and they were addressed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
During a panel discussion, the founder of the gathering, Markos Moulitsas, scolded Democrats for failing to motivate him this election year. He then mentioned several GOP Senate candidates including Sharron Angle (NV), Rand Paul (NV), Mike Lee (UT), Clint Didier (WA) and Joe Miller (AK):

What’s motivating me is the tea baggers and their candidates. I say, thank you, tea baggers. They are the best thing to happen to us this year. I don’t think we are going to lose majorities because the tea party people have given us fantastic candidates to run against.

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