Opinion: GOP hopes ‘Commitment’ works like the ‘Contract’

Twenty-eight years ago, future House Speaker and Georgia U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich led Republicans in unveiling their ‘Contract With America,’ which became the rallying cry behind the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994.

Fast forward to 2022, and House Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy — who hopes to follow in Gingrich’s footsteps to become Speaker — have rolled out their ‘Commitment to America,’ which they hope can repeat the Gingrich midterm election magic.

Georgia Republicans wasted no time getting on board.

“It’s time to put America First with Republican’s Commitment to America,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, who was on hand in Pennsylvania for the rollout of this year’s GOP plan.

“Democrats have no real critique of Republicans’ Commitment to America plan because they know their policies are failing,” said U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville.

“One-party rule has been a disaster and it’s time for a new direction,” added U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point.

While the goal is much the same now as it was for Gingrich — telling the American people what your party wants to do — there are some stark differences between 2022 and what the GOP offered back in 1994.

“We are prepared to be very specific about what we are doing,” Gingrich told reporters outside the Capitol back then, as the ‘Contract’ was a series of highly detailed bills — welfare reform, tax cuts, regulatory reform, a constitutional amendment on term limits, a balanced budget, and more.

By contrast, the 2022 ‘Commitment’ is more of a policy declaration from 35,000 feet of general GOP goals, like a stronger economy, a tougher southern border, upholding free speech, defending the Second Amendment, and more.

Those goals are still important — especially when you remember that in 2020, Donald Trump’s Republican Party did not put forward a party platform — but it doesn’t foreshadow a Gingrich-like legislative blitz early next year if the GOP wins the House.

One very interesting item was missing from the ‘Commitment’ — it made no mention at all of trying to repeal the Obama health law, something which had long been at the top of the Republican agenda ever since the approval of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Instead, the new plan talks vaguely about “affordable options and better quality” health care, ‘delivered by trusted doctors and hospitals.’

No matter the difference in their approaches, Gingrich has lavished praise on McCarthy’s strategy.

“He’s laying out a platform for governing - not just a platform for campaigning,” the former Speaker said.

Whether it can translate into a successful campaign tool – we’ll find out on Nov. 8.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com