Vote on the Contract FROM America

Earlier today I commented on the newly-minted Mount Vernon Statement, which to me is a noble gesture but seems to fall short on actionable items. After all, most conservatives are America-first, limited-government types who simply want Washington to get out of their way and allow America to continue to be the greatest country on earth – the “shining city on a hill” as it were.

In 1994 Newt Gingrich took similar principles and, with the help of dedicated conservatives, created the Contract With America for Republicans seeking seats in the House of Representatives. The success was obvious as the GOP took over the House for the first time in 40 years and all but one of the ten principles spelled out had some kind of Congressional action (term limits being the exception.) By nationalizing the election, Gingrich and his allies created the impetus for voters to look beyond their district and support a principle of governance.

This time, Newt is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the game, and it’s a coalition of conservative groups (including a large number of TEA Party organizers) which are spearheading the effort. And instead of a select cadre determining each planks, this contract is based on input from the grassroots. Ten of these 22 planks will be inserted into the Contract From America.

  1. DEMAND A BALANCED BUDGET: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.
  2. STOP THE TAX HIKES: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
  3. COMMIT TO REAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Every bill, in its final form, will be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill will be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent.
  4. PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
  5. PASS REAL HEALTHCARE REFORM: Greatly improve affordability of health insurance by permitting all Americans access to all health insurance plans sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines and allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.
  6. ENACT FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the Internal Revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.
  7. END RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
  8. LET US SAVE: Allow all Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account they own, control, and can leave to whomever they choose.
  9. PROTECT INTERNET FREEDOM: No regulation or tax on the Internet.
  10. GIVE PARENTS MORE CHOICES IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN: Improve American education by reforming the broken federal role through eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school, and improving the affordability of higher education.
  11. PASS AN ‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ ENERGY POLICY: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.
  12. PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in any form, including requiring “localism” or “diversity” quotas.
  13. RESTORE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVERNMENT: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.
  14. PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS: Block state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
  15. REJECT CAP & TRADE: Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
  16. STOP THE PORK: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent, including requiring a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
  17. NO CZAR REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: All “lawmaking” regulations must be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, as the Constitution requires for all laws.
  18. AUDIT THE FED: Begin an audit of the Federal Reserve System.
  19. NO MORE BAILOUTS: The federal government should not bail out private companies and should immediately begin divesting itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.
  20. STOP CAREER POLITICIANS & CURB LOBBYIST POWER: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require Congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.
  21. SUNSET REGULATIONS: All regulations will be “sunset” after ten years unless renewed by Congressional vote.
  22. LET US WATCH: Broadcast all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.

Talk about your tough choices! Most of the lot is good, but right off the top I would say that items 7, 20, and 21 would be my favorites.

Number 7 is a slightly adapted form of TABOR laws, with TABOR standing for Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights. This provides for necessary increases in government but not excessive ones. Yes, there is the weakness of not requiring cuts which should be made (since the natural tendency would be to budget to within a gnat’s eyelash of the limit) but the principle is sound.

I would only change number 20 to a 12+12 rule (6 House terms and 2 Senate terms.) However, the one thing missing from this plank is to restore the states’ voice in the process by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. The idea of popular election of Senators has shifted the balance in Congress and federalized the government, when the intent was to create tension between states and Washington.

Number 21 might just have been my suggestion from three years ago, back when I did my ’50 year plan’ series. My argument now is the same as it was then – if Congress is busy justifying the renewal of old laws, they may be too busy to think of new ones.

I could probably vote for 10, but it’s likely I’ll only vote for a few to strengthen their position. Bullet voting may be a good practice in this case. In any case, here’s a chance for the people to decide what they think is most important and what they’ll vote to change come November.

In the department of “I’ll believe it when I see it” – Mikulski out?

Update 3 8:45 a.m. – Sean O’Donnell of the Baltimore Examiner cites Cillizza and two other sources to quash the rumor – for now. Certainly this is a case study on the power of the internet – now the question becomes who the original source was.

It’s also worthy of noting that The Vail Spot, which had just over 200 readers in the previous week, has had over 20,000 readers since 2 p.m. yesterday when the rumor was picked up. (He has an open Site Meter – for now.)

Update 2 7:30 p.m. –  Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post tweeted earlier this afternoon: “Rumors that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is retiring are NOT TRUE, according to informed D source.”

We’ll see. This means it’s the word of an “impeccable” source vs. an “informed” source. More below.

Update 1 5:45 p.m. – I spoke briefly via phone with fellow candidate Dr. Eric Wargotz who agreed with me – he’ll believe it when he sees it too.

Senate candidate Daniel McAndrew notes that this rumor isn’t really new, but “if true, then the next question will be who, in the Democrat party, will have the better chance trying to keep the seat from flipping. This is likely to be very interesting given the rash of others retiring.”

Another source who preferred to be unnamed cautioned me that Mikulski looked healthy and was getting around fine at the recent MACO conference, so the foot injury has apparently healed.

I’ve also been told that there’s a high possibility Rep. Chris Van Hollen may jump in if Mikulski quits – he’s been “gearing up” for a Senate run. Obviously if the Democrats lose dozens of seats in the House Van Hollen could be a fall guy as DCCC head.

Main story:

A blogger heretofore unknown to me by the name of Rich Vail may have dropped a bombshell on Maryland politics and created a gamechanger movement by citing an “impeccable source” who says Senator Mikulski will not seek another term.

His post on The Vail Spot, if true, sets a lot of machinery into motion.

Obviously having another open Senate seat (a second in four years) could convince a number of prominent Maryland Democrats to leave the safety of their offices for a run – one name mentioned in the comments was Attorney General Doug Gansler, with another being Governor O’Malley. This could also convince any of Maryland’s seven Congressional Democrats to move up as well.

If you go back and look at the 2006 race for the seat eventually won by Ben Cardin (to replace the retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes), Cardin’s main competition came from onetime NAACP head Kweisi Mfume – no other Democrat secured double-digit support. But Mfume has laid low politically since his 2006 defeat, making it questionable whether he would try again.

Most of the Democrats’ Senate seat bench, then, comes from the ranks of already-elected Congressman and state officials, with only Gansler, O’Malley, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and Comptroller Peter Franchot haviing run statewide. Of that group, Brown might be most likely to make an attempt, perhaps couching it as a bid to place a black person back into the ranks of the Senate (Roland Burris of Illinois, who was appointed to succeed President Obama, did not stand for election this year.)

While the Democrats’ bench isn’t the largest one around, the side with an even more shallow bench is the GOP. Their group of elected officials who have run statewide is exceedingly small: former Governor Bob Ehrlich and the man who ran against Mikulski last time, State Senator E.J. Pipkin. Pipkin could well decide to go again if Mikulski retires and not worry about the First Congressional District race which he’s been rumored to consider entering.

The more intriguing possibility is Ehrlich, who’s not officially entered the GOP race for governor but has had the field essentially cleared for him by the withdrawal of three people previously interested, most recently onetime Congressional candidate Larry Hogan. Since the latest polls have Ehrlich trailing a governor in Martin O’Malley who’s only marginally popular statewide and Ehrlich doesn’t want to be placed in a position where he’s likely to lose, the open Senate seat could pique his interest.

Obviously that prospect would dim the hopes of the five people who have already entered the Senate race and would get a boost from not having to run against an entrenched incumbent. I’m going to ask them for comment and update the post if I get any.

However, before we get too far along and despite the fact Vail has laid out a good case for Mikulski’s retirement, it remains to be seen whether this is rumor or scoop. Yet given the other political news of Senate retirements (with the most recent shoe to drop being Mikulski’s fellow Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana) it’s not out of the question that Mikulski may feel it’s her time to go. On the other hand, though, Bayh faced a much tougher potential re-election fight than conventional wisdom pegged for Mikulski – so the health issues she’s faced lately may indeed be taking their toll.

Obviously this is a developing story I’ll stay on top of.

Hit back twice as hard!

Well, well, well…even the folks at Organizing For Against America sound worried about election prospects. Think our side has an effective strategy going or what? Mitch Stewart must:

As we head into an election year, the new strategy for killing reform is claiming that members of Congress who vote for it will suffer at the polls.

For months, our opponents have spread lies about reform to scare voters away. But the simple truth about what reform would actually do — save jobs, guarantee all Americans affordable, stable coverage, and significantly reduce the deficit — is something most Americans strongly support.

The question is, come November, will the voters know the facts?

OFA supporters have asked for a way to show every member of Congress that if they fight for reform now, we’ll back them up this election season.

That’s why we’re launching “You fight, we’ll fight” — a volunteer pledge bank where you can commit your time to back up candidates and officials who fight hard for health reform.

We’re shooting for 1,000,000 hours pledged to spread the word to fellow voters. And if we get there, we’ll publish the total hours pledged in USA Today, so there will be no doubt that health reform is both good policy and good politics.


President Obama has made it crystal clear that he has no intention of walking away from health reform — and this movement has made its desire to fight on just as clear.

And many members of Congress are already working hard by his side to get the job done. But for those on the fence about whether or not to proceed, knowing you are there to back up a courageous stand can make all the difference.

Your volunteer hours can have a huge impact no matter where you live. You can make calls into critical districts where health reform champions are in jeopardy, write letters to the editor, volunteer for nearby campaigns, or even just talk to friends, family, and neighbors to help cut through the special interest spin.

We’ll offer lots of ways to get involved between now and the elections in November, and you can decide which are right for you — the important thing right now is to publicly show your commitment to fight for those who make health reform a reality.


We’ve certainly faced setbacks in this fight. But as President Obama told OFA supporters last week, that only means we need to work that much harder. (Emphasis in original.)

The problem for Mitch and his gang is that Americans DO know the facts, and they don’t want the significant changes threatened in the legislation. By the way, the legislation won’t save jobs, doesn’t cover everyone (even proponents agree that millions would be left out) and isn’t deficit-neutral because no Congress has the guts to cut Medicare payments to make it even out. Those aren’t lies – sorry, Mitch.

Anyway, I happen to recall that the Organizing Against America database reaches about 13 million e-mail addresses, so they only need a small percentage of them to pledge to reach 1,000,000 hours. Doesn’t really seem like that ambitious of a goal when you compare it to the number of hours TEA Party volunteers and participants have put in. I’m sure it took the million-plus in Washington on 9-12 last year more than an hour to express their views.

But it’s interesting I received this e-mail and it may be because I happen to live in a district where a Democrat went against his party to vote no on reform. I don’t recommend hanging your Congressman in effigy to get the point across, but something in the pro-liberty tactics worked and Frank Kratovil just said no. Naturally he left his opposition open to change based on factors within the bill, but for now he’s on the right side of the issue and the reason is he’s not suicidal when it comes to re-election.

While polls may suggest that Americans want some sort of health care reform, this solution isn’t what they desire. If it were truly popular, why would most of it not be adopted until 2013?

I’m curious to see when the ad will appear in USA Today, although I suspect it may be awhile. But I’ll bet TEA Party activists can easily top whatever the (probably made-up) figure Organizing Against America comes up with. When the Democrats have to come up with trickery in order to pass this bill, the message should be like the new third rail of American politics: touch that “yes” button when Obamacare comes up for a vote and you’re dead at the ballot box.

I can commit some time to helping make sure foes of freedom are defeated in November; how about you?

Who’s running the government now?

This from Americans for Limited Government explains a lot. A few excerpts:

An email sent from an Service Employees International Union (SEIU) lobbyist to Democratic members of the U.S. Senate shows that the SEIU had advance knowledge of when key votes on Craig Becker were to be held. Becker is one of Barack Obama’s nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

The email was released by Jeri Thompson, co-host of the Fred Thompson Show. Thompson described the email as “marching orders to the Senate HELP Committee, telling them what their schedule was going to be.”

According to the email sent from Alison Reardon, legislative consultant for SEIU, “Your attendance at is crucial to appointing Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Please attend Thursday’s HELP Ex. Session to report out President Obama’s nomination of Craig Becker for Senate confirmation.”

The memo continues, “This is the highest priority for organized labor, and Majority Leader Reid will file Cloture on Friday 2/5, and has assured us that Senate will vote to end debate at 5 p.m. Monday 2/8.”

The email also asks for Senators to confirm their attendance at the executive session of the HELP Committee.

In essence, the Senate was working at the beck and call of the Service Employees International Union. Talk about buying access! Their millions in campaign contributions sure are coming in handy as far as that goes.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the Becker nomination will go through because the GOP has another helper against him: Senator Ben Nelson, in full panic mode after word of the Cornhusker Kickback got out, has signaled he’d join with the GOP in filibustering the nominee. So the SEIU will be thwarted for now into getting their toady onto the National Labor Relations Board. (The vote today was 52-33 to invoke cloture with Democrats Nelson and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas joining the GOP cause.)

But just imagine if ExxonMobil or Halliburton had been behind a memo such as this – do you think the mainstream media and leftist bloggers wouldn’t be screaming about impeachment hearings? Yet most of what we’ve heard about this issue from the folks at the mainstream media (like this CBS News example from today) talks about how business groups held his nomination up, not the machinations to grease the skids.

Obviously the situation ended well, but the question remains whether this sort of influence exerted by the SEIU and Big Labor in general is too much for America’s good.