The Contract of America

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Contract With America

In the historic 1994 midterm elections, Republicans won a majority in Congress for the first time in forty years, partly on the appeal of a platform called the Contract with America. Put forward by House Republicans, this sweeping ten-point plan promised to reshape government. Its main theme was the decentralization of federal authority, deregulation, tax cuts, reform of social programs, increased power for states, a balanced federal budget were its chief ambitions. With unusual speed, all ten items came to a vote in the House of Representatives within one hundred days, and the House passed nine of the ten measures. Yet, even Newt Gingrich who is was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one of the key leaders of the so called Republican Revolution of the 1990’s compared the plan to the most important political reforms of the twentieth century, progress on the contract was delayed. Senate Republicans were slow to embrace it, Democrats in both chambers denounced it, and President Bill Clinton threatened to veto its most radical provisions. Only three of the least controversial measures had become law by the end of 1995 as Congress and the White House battled bitterly over the federal budget. On the surface, the contract differed little from other modern Republican platforms. It began with a statement of three "core" principles in the form of an argument: the federal government is too big and unresponsive, and big government programs sap individual and family willpower and thus an overtaxed and overregulated citizenry cannot pursue the American Dream. Republicans had been saying as much for at least two decades. Although Democrats had controlled Congress for more than forty years with an almost opposite view of government's duty to its people, Republicans had held the White House from 1980 to 1992. The election of President Clinton in 1992 was a striking setback for Republican party strategists. Yet, they took encouragement from voter discontent with the pace of Clinton's legislative plans, two key provisions of which an economic stimulus package and health care reform failed to pass even with a Democratic majority in Congress. Many of the Contract's policy ideas originated at The Heritage Foundation, a highly influential conservative think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values, and a strong national defense. The Heritage Foundation has played an important role in advancing conservative ideas, especially after the election of Republican majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in 1994. The Republican "Contract with America" agenda sought major changes in the size and power of the federal government. Heritage Foundation staff played a key role behind the scenes in helping to craft and refine legislative proposals. The Heritage Foundation is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt institution and is governed by an independent board of trustees. It relies on the private financial support of individuals, foundations, and corporations for its income and accepts no government funds and performs no contract work. Currently, it receives support from more than 200,000 contributors. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C. Contract with America made two promises "to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives." First, it promised to change the way Congress works by requiring that lawmakers follow the same workplace laws as the rest of the country notably, sexual harassment laws and by strictly reforming the sluggish committee process in the House of Representatives. Second, it promised that the House would vote on the ten key planks of the contract within the first one hundred days of the new Congress. The contract gave these ten planks names such as the Fiscal Responsibility Act: This Act includes the...
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