Virus Outbreak Congress

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 26, 2020.

"In every election in American history, both parties have their clichés. The party that has the clichés that ring true with the most voters always wins." – Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich's “Contract with America” in the 1994 midterms gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. This was not a typical election gimmick. It was a real deal that appealed to Americans. The "Contract" listed eight reforms Republicans committed to enact, included in ten bills they promised to get to floor if they were to become the majority in Congress.

Republicans pledged each bill would be given a fair, open debate, a fair vote, and the context of each one would be available for public scrutiny. The text of the proposed bills would be released prior to the election. These were real issues for all voters. They addressed a balanced budget, tax cuts for small businesses, families and seniors, Social Security, as well as tort and welfare reform.

Congressional reporter Major Garrett opined, "The Contract was largely a commitment to America meant to satisfy middle-class sensibilities." Republicans interviewed by Garrett said it represented responsible goals that all Americans could relate to. These were ongoing concerns voters wanted Congress to correct. They were nonpartisan, common sense things that all voters wanted mitigated.

Political scientists cite the Contract as key to the decisive victory for the Republicans in the 1994 elections. They said the idea of the Contract to unite Americans under a cloak of common causes for the first time was unique strategy. Some parts of the Contract were enacted, while others were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. But the Contract proved that the Republicans did what they promised to do.

"Sometimes I wonder why I'm even here? Congress runs this government, not me." – Bill Clinton

Since President Joe Biden took office, Republicans have been too busy defending the Constitution to present any meaningful legislation of their own. They have spent everyday in Congress swashbuckling with progressives to maintain some semblance of order in our republic. Republicans have not been able to get one piece of meaningful, much-needed legislation through committee to the floor for a vote.

This month, when Republicans rebuffed Chuck Schumer's attempt to pass legislation to make it easier to continually raise the nation's debt ceiling, Schumer blasted Republicans: “For the good of America, for the good of our economy, Republicans must allow us to fix the debt limit without continually telling us the only responsible way to fix it is to cut spending and live within our budget."

Progressives are campaigning that the Republicans have no policies to run on and have labeled the GOP "the party of no." In a recent news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remarked, "Republicans are out of touch with our changing times and have nothing to offer voters except a promise to vote no on every bill Democrats pass in Congress. They are living in the past, with no ideas of their own."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he has had enough, and is fighting back, just before the midterms. He has borrowed a page out of Newt Gingrich's playbook and has come up with his own blueprint to unify voters and the GOP before the midterms, with his "Commitment to America".

"Voters are tired of constant obstruction. We need a legislative agenda that appeals to everyone. The 'Commitment to America' represents a new path and direction for America." – Kevin McCarthy

The blueprint McCarthy plans to unveil in his Commitment to America is designed to provide a messaging guide for incumbents and candidates. Just as Gingrich’s Contract, his Commitment to America is expected to recapitulate Republican plans to address pressing national problems by the midterms. McCarthy hopes this will convince voters to give the Republicans control of the House.

McCarthy invited the snowy-haired former speaker Gingrich to this year’s GOP strategy retreat and solicited his input on his program that closely mirrors Gingrich’s 28-year-old Contract with America.

Since McCarthy is dealing with different issues than Gingrich, he is carefully choosing his battles.

"In three decades things have changed, but our common goals remain the same." – Kevin McCarthy

The major difference between McCarthy's "Commitment to America" and Gingrich's “Contract with America” is the Republican Party is more diverse. The party has changed dramatically under Donald Trump. The GOP electorate is more blue collar, rural, Bible Belt Christian with more small business owners, more minorities and suburban voters. It is the new party of the middle class.

McCarthy said this new crop of voters “is hungry for House Republicans to say more about what they are for, and what they will do for them if they are elected.” Although McCarthy's plan has not been revealed, it is expected to address inflation, border security and immigration, energy, crime, protecting women's sports, and how Republicans plan to deal with Iran, Russia, and Red China.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD., said that McCarthy's "pitch" is nothing more than grabbing headlines with a typical campaign attempt to cover up the deep divisions in the Republican Party, the same as Sen. Rick Scott proposed for Senate Republicans for the midterms. He said Democratic Party operatives are eagerly waiting to attack all parts of McCarthy’s agenda in their TV ads and on the campaign trail.

In a news release, Pelosi said, "House Republicans are doubling down on an extreme MAGA agenda: to criminalize women’s health care, to slash seniors’ Medicare, repeal of the lower drug prices for seniors in the Inflation Reduction Act, and to destroy our democracy,"

Unlike Gingrich’s contract, McCarthy has some work to do to get every Republican to sign off on his Commitment to America. Developing a consensus requires more work from him since he has a more diverse party today. He plans to bridge these gaps at town halls and select private meetings.

This also gives McCarthy a chance to pitch the GOP plan to independents. He must convince them the GOP will get many of these things done despite the prospect that House Republicans will have limited influence with a Democratic controlled Senate and a progressive Biden-Harris White House.

Edmund Burke said, "The greater the power, the more the abuse." Today's Democrats have shown that when they have a trifecta, compromise is a dirty word. Every bill they passed is self-serving for special interest groups. McCarthy's Commitment to America mediates two years of Congressional political divide and attempts to remedy many important issues liberals in Congress have neglected.

With media beating up on Donald Trump each day and the left promising to give every woman an abortion on demand, McCarthy's Commitment to America is a far better message to campaign on. The question is, will the party remain unified and campaign to keep this commitment, or allow the left to bait them into debates about abortion and identity politics?

"The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers and the one whose policy clashes with the times does not." – Niccolo Machiavelli