GOP Contract: Read the Fine Print

October 01, 1994

The House Republican leadership staged what one observer called "the mother of all photo ops" on the steps of the U.S. Capitol this week.

Over 300 Republican candidates for House seats (including 152 of 157 incumbents running again) posed for the cameras and signed a "Republican Contract with America." This is 10-point program that Republicans say they are pledged to pass next year if voters give the party control of the House.

The 10 points include some old standbys of the conservative wing of the Grand Old Party, such as a balanced budget constitutional amendment, tax cuts and increased defense spending. We don't understand why moderate and sensible Rep. Connie Morella could say of this contract: "We're not promising that much." It was too much for Ronald Reagan to get done. But can it be done? Only "with smoke and mirrors," as was said when Mr. Reagan proposed something similar 14 years ago, when the deficit was a fraction of what it is now.

Some of what the contract proposes makes sense, especially some of the reforms in the rules governing the House of Representatives. But those rules were written by Democrats to help them as majority party exercise tight control over the legislative agenda and process. We would not be surprised to see House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich, who orchestrated the contract-signing rally, change his mind if he were to become Speaker Newt Gingrich, head of a Republican majority.

Are we too cynical? Judge for yourself. One item in the contract is term limits for representatives: six terms (12 years). Representative Gingrich, a 16-year veteran, said when pressed that that would only apply to new members: "I don't think you can say to everybody who's been here 12 years, you know, this is your last term, you don't run again."

Voters better look for and read carefully the fine print in this contract.

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