Today marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Contract with America, a document unveiled by House Republicans in 1994 and crafted with the help of a then-second term Congressman from Ohio’s 8th District by the name of John Boehner.
Speaking on the floor of the House 20 years ago today, at about 10:30 a.m. ET, Rep. Boehner said:
“Republicans are going to be signing a contract with the American people. And what makes this effort different than promises made in the past is that we’re saying to the American people that if we are in the majority, we will bring up 10 bills for consideration, in open consideration, on this floor within the first 100 days. And if we don’t live up to our end of the contract, we urge you, the American people, to throw us out.
“The liberal Democrat establishment here in Washington is worried. Judging from their violent reaction to the idea of a Contract with America, it’s clear that they’re afraid. If the American people are given a pledge that is kept, it will ruin their chances of ever making empty promises again. The liberal Democrat establishment in Washington doesn’t understand the concept of a contract because they don’t understand the meaning, or the power, of a kept promise. That is what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are so unhappy about today.
“Everyone should be aware that the people who are upset with the Contract with America are the same people who promised to deliver health care within 100 days – two years ago. The same people who promised a middle-class tax cut and raised everybody’s taxes instead. The same people who promised to end politics as usual and instead gave us a scandal a week. They never intended to deliver on their promises, so they assume that everyone else is the same. But they’re wrong. Dead wrong.”
A few weeks after these remarks, the American people entrusted Republicans with control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Under the leadership of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Dick Armey, the new House Republican majority kept its word, voting on measures like a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, welfare reform, legal reform, and middle-class tax cuts. Some of these ideas were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. Some were blocked by Senate Democrats. And one – a term limits amendment to the Constitution – received a majority of Republican votes in the House but fell short of the two-thirds majority required for passage.
America faces some of the same issues today, as well as some new challenges. President Obama promised Americans that his health care law would let them keep their insurance plans if they liked them, but that was not true. He promised his would be the most transparent administration in history, but his administration has covered up the truth about Operation Fast and Furious, the IRS’s targeting of conservatives, and the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Meanwhile, Americans are still asking, “Where are the jobs?” Millions can’t find any – or enough – good work. Wages are down on President Obama’s watch, but the prices of everyday items are up. The middle class is being squeezed by government policies that are good for Washington, not the American people.
A Republican majority was sent to the House again in 2010 and 2012 with orders to end the status quo. Under Speaker Boehner, earmarks were eliminated, and the cost of running the House has been reduced by nearly 14 percent. Government spending was cut by $2.1 trillion over 10 years, and an open process of considering legislation was brought back. “All of this,” said the Speaker last week, “is about delivering what my friend Newt Gingrich calls a ‘21st century, citizen-directed government;’ one that is smaller, less costly, and more accountable to the people we serve.”
That journey began afresh in 2010 with A Pledge to America, which echoed the principles in the Contract with America and made it clear that House Republicans would listen to the American people and make their priorities our priorities. That’s why we’ve passed jobs bill after jobs bill to strengthen the economy, boost wages, and increase opportunity for all Americans. But at least 46 of those commonsense bills are stuck in the Senate, blocked by Senate Democrats and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
Speaker Boehner has a five point vision for rebuilding the foundation of America’s economy: fix our tax code, solve our spending problem, reform our legal system, rein in excessive government regulations, and give all kids a better education.
As he’s said, it’s “a path that speaks to both parties and, frankly, to all Americans.” Together, it’s these types of American solutions that will guide our work in the days, months, and years ahead.