Republicans say 'Pledge to America' is just their first step

Hours before the party releases its governing agenda, Republicans cast their "Pledge to America" as a first step toward solving problems facing the U.S.

House GOP leaders said the "Pledge," the successor to the 1994 "Contract with America," provides immediate options to lawmakers to start addressing problems, though more work is left to do.

"The Pledge is our statement on the immediate steps that need to be taken to put us on the road to the smaller, less costly, more accountable government the American people are demanding," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the conservative National Review Online.

Boehner will lead a group of House Republicans to formally unveil the agenda this afternoon at a hardware store in Sterling, Va. Details from the pledge started leaking Wednesday night, showing the agenda is heavy on issues such as the economy and healthcare, while it is lighter on formal proposals on social issues.

The agenda was crafted through the "America Speaking Out" program led by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the chief deputy whip, which culled ideas from voters online during the past few months. Those ideas, though, were only the first offering from Republicans, party leaders asserted.

"This is our effort at a good start," House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said on CBS's "The Early Show." "There's a lot more work to be done than what people will see in the Pledge to America."

The agenda has received early criticism, though. Democrats have already cast the pledge as a retread of old Republican ideas and a giveaway to special interests. Some conservative bloggers and activists, such as Erick Erickson of RedState, have criticized the agenda as "dreck" and not aggressive enough on policy.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said the pledge is something the GOP is ready to pass today. He said tackling the deficit would take longer and defended Republicans' decision to exclude rules on earmarks in the pledge, reasoning that Republicans have already handled that issue.

"The deficit is such a mess right now, it'll take us time to balance it. But the current budget is only making it worse," Ryan said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Republicans, we're going to continue this earmark ban. We've already done the earmark ban. That's why it's not in the pledge."

Pence also said the agenda was, in part, a bow to the conservative Tea Party activists who have loudly voiced their opinions in GOP primaries this year.

"I think it's more than a tip of the hat," Pence said of the Tea Party's influence on the agenda on Fox News. "I think the Tea Party movement or people who have attended town hall meetings over the last year and a half have sent a message that enough is enough."

The agenda also got backing from the top Senate Republican on Thursday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who praised it as a hearty response to voters' concerns.

"[S]enate Republicans strongly support the effort Republicans in the House will unveil later this morning in Virginia," McConnell said. “The proposals House Republicans will put forward today are clear proof that, unlike Democrats in Washington, Republicans have been listening intently to Americans over the past year and a half."

Updated 10:05 a.m.