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A closer look at GOP's pledge

Republicans unveiled their governing agenda, which they call "Pledge to America," in Sterling, Va., on Thursday morning. Here is a closer look at the GOP's plans on key issues and how they would work in practice.

Health care

Proposals: Republicans call for repealing the health care law signed earlier this year by President Obama. In its place, they would enact a series of ideas long touted by the GOP, such as health savings accounts, enrolling people with chronic illnesses in state-run, high-risk pools, and limiting medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors.

Why they are proposing it: The health care law is highly unpopular among Republicans.

How it would work on paper: Republicans would pass a repeal of the law through Congress, get it signed by the president (or override his veto), then start trying to pass their own health care ideas. Most nonpartisan analyses suggest that the various GOP ideas would insure far fewer people than the current law, which is expected to cover more than 30 million people currently without insurance.

How it would work for real: Congress almost never repeals a law it has passed, and the GOP would need help from plenty of Democrats in overriding an Obama veto. The more likely scenario is Republicans trying to limit funding of certain parts of the health care law, thereby slowing its implementation.

Government reform

Proposals: Republicans have a series of ideas to change how Congress works. They would require Congress to cite the specific constitutional authority for each piece of legislation, to post bills online 72 hours before votes and to make sure that bills are passed "one at time," meaning legislation would not be packed with provisions.

Why they are proposing it: In two words, tea party. Throughout last year, GOP lawmakers heard activists at town halls asking repeatedly if they had read the entire health care bill (which ran nearly 2,000 pages) and how Congress had the authority to pass it.

How it would work on paper: These are all fairly simple ideas in theory. The idea is that Congress won't pass bills like the health care law because they won't find approval for it in the Constitution. Members of the public would have days to read legislation and propose changes.

How it would work for real: Congress did not do these things often from 1995 to 2006, when Republicans ran Congress. Why? It's difficult to get members even of the same party to agree on legislation; the result is that bills are often packed with unrelated provisions to bring in more votes.

Congress tends to find in the Constitution whatever authority it needs to do as it pleases, no matter which party is in charge. Democrats already post most legislation days before votes, so this proposal would not lead to a very meaningful change.

Spending

Proposals: Republicans would halt the hiring of nonsecurity federal employees, cut the budget of Congress, freeze increases on most domestic spending programs, stop any additional spending under the TARP program and last year's stimulus, and cut government waste.

Why they are proposing it: Republicans have spent the last two years attacking Obama as a big spender, so they must show they can cut spending themselves.

How it would work on paper: Congress passes yearly appropriations bills; it can limit or cut the spending in them, although the president must sign off.

How it would work for real: These ideas, even if all implemented, would do little to reduce the budget deficit or national debt. Republicans opted against requiring the budget to be balanced every year or making changes to Medicare or Social Security that would reduce deficits now and in the future. Obama is unlikely to sign a law stopping the stimulus, which he championed.

National security

Proposals: Republicans did not offer a lot of detailed new proposals. They would bar trying accused terrorists on U.S. soil, not attach any unrelated measures to defense spending bills and "fully fund missile defense."

Why they are proposing it: Republicans have long defined themselves as the party that best understands national security, so they had to include these planks.

How it would work on paper: Congress can, in theory, affect foreign policy by denying funding for certain projects or increasing funding for others.

How it would work for real: Joined by some Democrats, Republicans have already effectively blocked Obama's plan to transfer accused terrorists from Guantanamo to U.S. soil. Most of the other ideas would have to be approved by the president.

Job creation

Proposals: Republicans would keep in place tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, reduce regulations by federal agencies on businesses and allow small businesses to deduct up to 20 percent of their business income.

Why they are proposing it: Voters of all stripes care about job creation.

How it would work on paper: Republicans say that, by getting rid of regulations and reducing taxes, more businesses would start hiring workers.

How it would work for real: The tax cuts are expiring at the end of this year, before the Republicans could take control of Congress, so Democrats still hold a considerable amount of the sway on that issue, and the party wants to increase taxes on household income above $250,000 a year. Also, keeping in place all of the tax cuts, which would add roughly $4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, would make it very difficult to balance the budget.

A closer look at GOP's pledge 09/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 24, 2010 7:44am]
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