Dems try to define GOP 'Pledge' as retread of old ideas

Democrats sought Thursday to cast House Republicans' "Pledge to America" as a retread of worn-out ideas as GOP leaders planned to lay out their new governing agenda.

The White House cast the Republicans' manifesto as a "pledge to the big special interests," while the Democratic National Committee (DNC) released a new video calling the pledge the "same old agenda."

The party sought to define the new GOP agenda, the successor to the 1994 Republican "Contract with America," as Republican leaders plan to formally unveil the plan during a major event Thursday afternoon in Sterling, Va.

"With this plan, they have made clear that they want to take America back to the same failed economic policies that caused this recession," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a White House blog post. "Instead of charting a new course, Congressional Republicans doubled down on the same ideas that hurt America’s middle class."

The DNC, meanwhile, highlighted elements of the pledge that resemble past Republican proposals on Social Security and Medicare, among other issues. The new video juxtaposes pictures of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the would-be speaker of the House, and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) with video of President George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich, the man who led the Republicans to control the House under the 1994 Contract.

For Democrats, the bid to predefine Republicans' new agenda is an effort to fit the highly anticipated governing agenda into their existing storyline: that Republicans, given control of Congress, would revive many of the policies that voters had found distasteful in the past.

"Instead of charting a new course to move this country forward, House Republicans proved once and for all that there's not an inch of daylight between them and the reckless Bush administration policies that cost 8 million American jobs and sent our economy into a tailspin," said DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse.

It's not clear, though, if Democrats will get traction out of this line of attack. Democrats from President Obama to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have warned for weeks now about how restoring Republicans to power would mean a return to Bush-era policies.

But polling earlier this month called into question how effective that messaging has been. Fifty-eight percent of registered voters said in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that Republicans would bring new ideas to the table if given control of Congress, while 35 percent believe the GOP would revive Bush policies.

Nonetheless, Democrats on Capitol Hill will also have opportunities on Thursday to respond to the Pledge to America agenda. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a chief deputy whip in the House who also serves as a DNC vice chairwoman, will hold a press conference with other Democratic members in response to the GOP announcement. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the assistant to the speaker and chairman of House Democrats' campaign committee, might also tee off against the Republican agenda during a Thursday afternoon press conference at the Capitol on small-business lending.