GOP leaders on Pledge: Show problems first, specific fixes later

Two Republican leaders defended the lack of specificity in the party's new "Pledge to America" on Sunday, saying it was a starting point for identifying problems and then moving toward meaningful solutions.

"I think we need to do this in a more systemic way and have this conversation first," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Let's not get to the potential solutions," he said. "Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is. Then we can begin to talk about possible solutions and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable."

When pressed by host Chris Wallace on why the document didn't propose to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid when entitlements comprised more than 40 percent of the budget, Boehner said the GOP would lay out a plan for a balanced budget that included entitlement reform.

"When you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems," he said when pressed on not including proposals for cuts in the Pledge. "I know. I've been there."


Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the document gives the "ability" for cuts instead of specifically laying them out.

"We give the ability from department to department to find where," he said. "We show programs where we show votes on the floor through YouCut where we've gone more than the ability to go through it, one after the other."

"What about when we laid out our pledge to that lumber company?" McCarthy said of last week's Pledge launch. "No one there has had a raise in two years. But even Congress, when you look at the legislative branch, not the individuals, but the legislative branch has increased by 5 percent."

McCarthy offered Amtrak as an example of discretionary spending cuts.

"Every person that buys a first-class ticket on Amtrak for the sleeper car -- we subsidize that by $364," he said. "That's $1.2 billion saved if we decide that the American public shouldn't borrow 40 cents out of every dollar to subsidize someone buying a first-class ticket."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence defended the Pledge as not being simply a retread of old GOP talking points.

"Ending bailouts and cutting spending in Washington, D.C. is a new idea," Pence said. "What we have in this proposal is not necessarily new. The idea of fiscal responsibility, pro-growth policies, openness and transparency in government are solid American ideas."

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), appearing opposite Pence, dismissed the Pledge as a "return to the Bush economic agenda."

"This is a rehash," Van Hollen said. "It's a recycling of the Bush economic agenda. They put a new front page on it but otherwise, this is a Xerox copy. Their whole answer to everything seems to be 'give the folks at the very top a tax break' and then they want to undo the regulations and reforms on Wall Street."

This story was updated at 12:45 p.m.