This morning on Twitter, Speaker of the House John Boehner was reliving past glories:
"#OnThisDay in 1994, I joined House Republicans in signing A Contract With America."
Ohhhhh, right, it must be election time.
Christmas, you put up a tree and tinsel. Halloween, it’s ghosts and ghouls. Thanksgiving, it’s pumpkins and construction paper turkeys. Election Season? Republicans start dragging out A Contract with America.
Thanks for reminding us, John.
A Contract With America. You recall this, right?
Twenty years ago today, Newt Gingrich unveiled A Contract with America. It was six weeks before the election and Republicans solemnly promised America that when they took over Congress, well, they'd do a bunch of stuff. Fix things. Make America better.
They made a pact, they did.
Inside their little Heritage Foundation tree fort, they donned pirate hats made from cleverly folded Wall Street Journals, and the gang all swore blood oaths with their little pinkies hooked together.
And then they made a big show of signing the Contract with America in front of the TV cameras, with John Boehner front and center – and why not? He was one of the guys who wrote it. Newt Gingrich usually gets credit, but back then John Boehner was the young Paul Ryan Whiz Kid who was going to change things, man, change America. If you wonder what Ryan will look like in 20 years, well, there you go – maybe a little less orange, but Boehner is Ryan all grown up, old and leathery and cynical.
As contracts go, it was pretty straight forward. Republicans pledged on their solemn honor to reduce the size of government and make the tiny remainder accountable to the people. Boy it sure sounded good, that Contract with America. Republicans were going to clean up corruption in Congress, reform tort law, and reduce the welfare rolls.
But it was a trick. For you see, they had no honor – solemn or otherwise.
Twenty years later, let’s just take a look at how it all worked out:
1) The Contract promised that republicans would ensure all laws that apply to the rest of the country would also apply to Congress.
Now, now, don’t laugh.
This one was the crown jewel of the contract. Number one on the list.
It didn't even make it out of committee.
Today, under John Boehner, there are laws for us, and laws (snort) for them. And so it goes.
2) The Contract declared Republicans would hire a well known major independent non-partisan auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse.
1994, what's that? 20 years ago now? Has anybody seen that report?
See, it turned out, surprise surprise, that nobody in Congress, and especially republicans and their pals in the defense industry and on Wall Street, wanted that audit.
Because, seriously, heh heh, you’re kidding, right?
And today? Well today, the Citizens United decision upheld by a Republican SCOTUS makes Congress significantly less accountable in every single way imaginable. A vast, nearly unimaginable amount of untraceable money flows like wine through Congress and prominent members of the Republican party have openly admitted that they work for the Billionaires and Big Money.
And just last month, Senate Republicans filibustered an attempt to overturn Citizens United via Constitutional Amendment.
In the House, Boehner won’t even allow the subject to come to the floor for debate.
So much for that audit.
3. The Contract promised to reduce the number of House Committees, and cut the remaining committee staff by one-third.
The first thing Gingrich’s new conservative majority did was to form more committees and hire more staff to examine how to reduce the number of committees and staff.
Most of those committees and staffers are still around twenty years later – they long outlasted the guy who promised to get rid of them. In fact, today the number of house committees is even more bloated than it was back in 1994 – and that includes the House Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi (Yes, that’s the actual name) and all its endless subcommittees, which despite spending tens of thousands of man-hours and millions in taxpayer dollars has found exactly … dick.
4. The Contract promised to Limit Committee Chair terms.
This one Gingrich actually followed through on, despite the fact that he and Boehner couldn't figure out how to limit terms for Democrats without also limiting terms for Republicans.
5. The Contract said that republicans would ban proxy votes in Committee.
Gingrich made good on this one too – specifically because it punished Democrats.
Now that Republicans have the majority, there’s been talk of changing the rule back to proxy voting.
6. The Contract with America promised to open House committee meetings to the public.
Not only didn't this happen, with the implementation of the Protect America Act and Patriot Act, a large number of committee meetings became classified in the name of national security and off-limits to not just the public and press, but even GAO oversight. Hell, in some cases, even the sanitized minutes of those meetings are classified.
Want to guess who was the big push behind this move to closed meetings? Liberals or Conservatives? Come on, guess. Come on.
7. Republicans were going to lower taxes and require a three-fifths majority to pass a tax increase.
They tried to amend the Constitution, because that’s what it would take. The bill passed the House, but was rejected by the Senate. So Republicans wrote a law instead, despite knowing there were specific provisions in the Constitution against it – which was why they tried for an Amendment in the first place. The statute passed both houses and was signed into law by Clinton who didn’t have the votes to prevent a veto override – and was promptly struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional when the State of New York sued the federal government.
Not only did Boehner and Co. not keep this provision of the contract, they ended up costing taxpayers billions when the government sued itself for passing a law that it knew in advance wouldn't stand up in court. Because, fiscal conservatives, right? Gonna make those tax dollars count.
8. And finally, the Contract was supposed to guarantee realistic accounting – realistic accounting forsooth – of the Federal Budget through the implementation of something called zero baseline budgeting.
You've heard of this, right?
Sure. Realistic accounting. Zero baseline budgeting. Uh huh. How realistic do you think accounting of the Federal Budget is today?
The Contract with America was the Republican Party’s very specific promise to reduce the size of federal government, reduce taxes, increase entrepreneurial enterprise, provide tort reform, balance the budget, and overhaul welfare.
Of those promises, Republicans cut taxes. Yes they did, and then massively increased the size of the federal government after starting two wars. Then they relaxed the rules on Wall Street and gave us the Great Recession.
Then they sent the bill to the next administration and blamed Obama for not fixing it fast enough.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By the time Republicans lost control of the House and Senate, the cost of the programs the Contract with America promised to fix or eliminate completely had increased by more than 25%.
Four years ago, Republicans led by John Boehner rolled out A Pledge To America, sort of A Contract With America Lite.
"The federal government is too big, it spends too much, and it's out of control," said then House Minority Leader John Boehner. “The current federal government isn't listening and doesn't get it."
The current federal government?
If this was a court room and an actual contract, that would be the part when John Boehner incriminated himself. Right there.
“Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) agreed. "The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. People are outraged."
Oh, people were outraged all right, I know I certainly was.
You see, the Pledge these two simpering jackasses were presenting promised the same thing the Contract did, but it was long on promise and short on details. The Contract had at least contained a roadmap and some specific details (none workable, but still), the Pledge was mostly sound bites and vague hand waving. Republicans didn’t need details, they had Obama. All they had to do was publicly hate him and the rest just sort of followed.
When pressed about The Contract With America and the failure to live up to his end of the contract, Boehner smiled his orange orange smile and said, hey, we only promised to “bring to the House Floor the following bills… .” We did not say we would actually do any of those things.
And so, like 1994, republicans took the House in 2010 and John Boehner became Speaker of Bullshit.
And the Pledge to America?
Like the Contract, it just sort of faded away, quickly forgotten – it was only four years ago, and I bet you’ve never even heard of The Pledge To America, have you?
The only part of their pledge Republicans made good on was hating Obama and obstructing every possible bit of progress since.
Back in 2010, as I watched John Boehner unveil his Pledge, I said in an editorial that “after November, no matter who wins, this Pledge like the Contract before it will quietly disappear. The weasel words have been carefully crafted and the plan is already in motion. This contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, just like the last one. And somewhere, there are a bunch of Native Americans shaking their heads and laughing. Contract with America? Heh heh. Hey! Maybe they'll offer you a land deal next!”
For more than 20 years, John Boehner has been making the same bullshit promises. Twenty years.
He doesn’t deny it, he Tweets about it.
Middle-class families in Southwest #Ohio are being squeezed. When does Washington get the same treatment?
That’s what Boehner said this morning on Twitter.
When does Washington get the same treatment? Seriously? I mean seriously?
John Boehner is Washington.
He’s been Washington for nearly 30 years!
When is Washington going to get the same treatment? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Republicans can blame the president all they like, but John Boehner and his cronies have been making empty promises and shilling the same con game long, long before Barack Obama came along.
And now, here we are, six weeks out from the election and what’s Boehner doing?
Why he’s making the same old promises, the same old pledge, the same old contract.
As I pointed out back then: Contracts, real contracts, are legal instruments entered into by both parties – not something drafted up by one side and foisted on the other.
Here’s the thing, so pay attention: we already have a contract with Congress. A legal and binding contract.
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.“
That, my fellow Americans, is the contract our leaders have with us. That right there, nothing more and nothing less.
For the last five years, Congressional Republicans together and separately have refused, utterly refused, to live up to the one contract that matters. They have not faithfully discharged their duties, and far from being ashamed of it, John Boehner revels in it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again as many times as it takes: If these people, these disingenuous, dishonest, despicable sons of bitches take the Senate next month, it will not be because they’ve kept their promises or lived up to their contract with the people of the United States of America – it will be because you are too goddamned lazy to get off your ass and hold them to account.
Republicans are confident that they will hold on to the House and that they will take the Senate in November.
They are positive they will win and win big.
But, then, that’s what they thought about the White House last time around.
Prove them wrong.