GOP plans to unveil 'governing agenda'

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives today plan to offer a blueprint for how they'd dramatically change what they term an "arrogant and out of touch government of self-appointed elites" by pledging to repeal the Obama health care law, continue all Bush-era tax cuts and significantly cut spending.

The agenda, scheduled to be unveiled by GOP leaders at a Virginia lumber and hardware store today, tries to give voters a clear, pointed choice in November. McClatchy obtained a copy Wednesday evening.

The "new governing agenda" quickly draws a stark contrast with the Democrats who now control Congress and the White House, and tries to incorporate much of the conservative anger of the tea party movement in its sharp, cutting rhetoric and in some of its ideas.

"An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values," the Republican document says, "striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

"An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many," it adds.

The Republican plan is an effort to gain the same kind of momentum the GOP generated for its House candidates in 1994, when it unveiled the "Contract with America" six weeks before the November election. That contract was credited with helping the GOP regain control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

The agenda also comes at a time when tea party candidates have unseated Republican establishment candidates in several states. Mainstream GOP leaders feel threatened and worry they could lose the general elections to the Democrats because their candidates might seem too extreme.

Democrats quickly scoffed.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., issued a statement that says the plan pledges allegiance to a wide array of special interests, including: "Insurance companies, who we want to put back in charge of health care... the wealthiest of the wealthy, who we will protect before the middle class... the oil companies, whom we apologized to... big corporations, and the jobs they outsource... with a recession and huge deficits for all."

Mirrors 1994 contract

The GOP document is similar to its 1994 contract in that it tries to distinguish the two parties sharply. It's being released about six weeks before an election in which Republicans need a net gain of 39 House seats to win control for the first time since the 2006 elections, a goal some independent analysts give the GOP a decent chance of reaching.

The "new governing agenda" is largely a collection of ideas that Republicans have been pushing for the last two years, with virtually no success.

Most of the document deals with the issues that polls say voters care most about, notably the economy.

Foremost is the plan to continue the Bush-era tax cuts. Unless Congress acts by Dec. 31, income tax rates will return to pre-Bush levels; Democrats want to maintain the current rates for everyone except individuals who earn more than $200,000 and joint filers who make more than $250,000.

Democratic leaders have been scrambling to come up with a plan because many party moderates want to keep all the lower rates, at least for a while. So do the Republicans.

"We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases currently scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2011," the blueprint says. The GOP also would allow small-business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income.

Also on the agenda: Repealing the new law that requires small businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service any purchase of more than $600. Republicans call the provision "a job-killing small business mandate."

The document also promises big spending cuts, though it offers few specific reductions. "It isn't just we need to stop spending so much," Republicans say. "We need to stop spending so irrationally."

They want to roll back spending to pre-2009 stimulus, pre-2008 bailout levels, which they say will save at least $100 billion in the first year, "with common sense exceptions for seniors, veterans and our troops." The bailout helped rescue ailing financial institutions and was initiated by Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Health care gets its own section, no surprise because Republicans in Congress have been nearly unanimous in their opposition to the Obama overhaul. "Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law," the document vows.

Instead, the GOP offers a package that includes many provisions already enacted into law, such as making it illegal to deny anyone coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, barring insurers from dropping coverage for anyone who gets sick, and eliminating annual and lifetime spending caps.