WASHINGTON (CN) – House Republicans laid out their legislative agenda Thursday, calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to immediately consider proposals to cut spending, freeze federal hiring of all non-security personnel, and permanently extend all Bush-era tax cuts.
“These are first steps towards fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C. and real steps about getting our economy going and getting people back to work,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a press conference at Tart Lumber Company in Sterling, Va., a Washington suburb.
Republicans detailed the legislative plan in a 45-page document called “A Pledge to America.”
Boehner said the main goals of the plan are to create jobs, balance the budget and pay down the debt.
“Washington is involved in far too many things,” Boehner said. “It spends too much and it’s out of control.”
House Republicans complained that the stimulus has not worked.
“The only thing the stimulus has stimulated is the national debt,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
Boehner said permanently extending all Bush-era tax cuts, including those for Americans making $250,000 or more a year, which President Obama opposes, would give businesses confidence to start hiring.
The tax cuts would be paid for in part by setting a cap on federal spending, Boehner said, which would save $100 billion a year, or $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
“The closest thing to eternal life on earth should not be a federal program,” Hensarling said. “You cannot spend, bailout and tax your way into economic prosperity.”
“I want to say this slowly so there is no room for misinterpretation: Our government has failed us,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who has been working on the legislative plan for the past 6 months.
“This pledge acknowledges that Washington…has made the problems worse,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
The plan calls for repealing the entire health care bill, enacted in March, and ending government control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Hensarling called the “mother of all bailouts.”
The proposal calls for publishing bills online 72 hours before a vote is held, and requiring lawmakers to cite the constitutional authority for bills. It also calls for congressional approval of any federal regulation that would cost businesses $100 million or more.
“A Pledge to America” was released just weeks before midterm elections, in which Republicans hope to take control of the House.
House Republicans said the plan laid out priorities that could be achieved with a House Republican majority, but said Pelosi could immediately direct the House to start working on some measures, such as permanently extending tax cuts for all income levels.
“She can whistle the House in and work on it today,” said Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.
“It’s a governing agenda that could be enacted tomorrow,” Boehner said.
Critics say the plan promises to bring down the deficit, but fails to name specific measures to control spending on entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, that are the major drivers of deficit spending.
Boehner said the plan did not include specific bills because House Republicans realize they cannot pass changes to entitlement programs in an era of divided governance, in which Obama could veto legislation that passed through a Republican House.
Boehner said Americans needed to have an “adult conversation” about the problems facing the country, which would help lawmakers together come up with ways to control spending on entitlement programs.
Throughout the day, Republicans continually emphasized that the plan was a “first steps” approach to reforming the government.
“This is not an exhaustive list,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “This is basically the key first steps we need to take to get this country back on track.”
“We’re not trying to reinvent the country, we’re trying to reclaim it,” he said.