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Republicans Outline Agenda In 'Pledge To America'

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio holds a copy of the
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio holds a copy of the "Pledge To America" plan while flanked by members of Congress and small business owners Thursday at Tart Lumber in Sterling, Va.
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The GOP hopes a clear statement of principles can counter Democratic criticism that it is the "Party of No" and help Republicans win enough seats in November to take control of the House and possibly the Senate.

House Republicans unveiled their "Pledge to America" on Thursday, a campaign blueprint that lays out the party's agenda and promises to reverse a number of Obama administration initiatives, including the health care overhaul, while enacting new tax and spending cuts.

The 20-odd page document -- an echo of the 1994 "Contract With America" that helped Republicans retake the House -- opens with lofty quotations from the Declaration of Independence and concludes with a promise to begin "a new governing agenda that honors our Constitution and reflects the will of the people."

At a hardware store in Sterling, Va., senior House Republicans in shirt sleeves showed off the document they say will be their guide should they win a majority in the November elections.

"The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. ... Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California declared. "We will take back our country. We will restore for a better future. This is our pledge to you."

Republicans want to capitalize on polls indicating that voter disenchantment with President Obama. They hope a clear statement of their principles will counter Democratic criticism of the GOP as the "Party of No" and pick up enough seats to take control of the House and possibly the Senate.

In language clearly targeting the White House and for the benefit of libertarian-leaning Tea Party activists -- whose votes Republicans are banking on -- the document refers to an "arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites [that] makes decisions, issues mandates and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many."

"The governed do not consent," the document states.

The "Pledge to America" is filled with proposals to slash taxes and spending, limit government regulation and end Obama's economic stimulus program. It also promises to repeal the health care overhaul -- Democrats' single-biggest legislative victory in a term that saw many of their proposals blocked by Republicans.

Specifically, the blueprint calls for giving small businesses a tax cut equivalent to 20 percent of their income and would roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels. It also calls for a federal hiring freeze for all but security-related positions and promises to keep open Guantanamo Bay and not allow terror suspects to be processed through the civilian courts and prison systems.

For their part, Democrats dismissed the GOP plan as recycled ideas that would further exacerbate the nation's problems.

"Republicans want to return to the same failed economic policies that hurt millions of Americans and threatened our economy," said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

The plan steers clear on hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage and climate change and offers no specific solutions to address looming shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, which account for a huge portion of the nation's soaring deficit. Instead, it calls for a "full accounting" of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and pledges to "make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs."

Nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed expressed disapproval of Republicans compared with 60 percent of Democrats.

Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, the head of Republicans' House campaign committee, said the pledge was drafted to answer the public's skepticism about government and give them a "deliverable."

"A number of people are very cynical about the reliability and the sincerity of either party," Sessions said. "We've put things on a sheet of paper."

Audio: GOP leaders left their suit coats and ties back in the office, and wore blue Oxford shirts to their “Pledge to America” event this morning in suburban Virginia. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde was there and talked to Steve Julian about what they called for today.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit