Social conservatives confident views will be in new GOP contract

Social conservatives are confident that their issues will be included in the anticipated new House GOP Contract with America.

According to key anti-abortion lawmaker Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), GOP leadership gave their reassurances that lighting-rod issues related to abortion would be addressed in the final, yet-to-be-seen “governing agenda.”

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Pitts explained that he has been involved in conversations with GOP leaders writing the new “governing agenda” set for release in the next week or so.

“There will be some in there, yes. I haven’t seen the language but have been told that there will be some in there, the social issues,” Pitts said in an interview with The Hill.

 “I’ve been very involved and it will be in there. And I’m not saying how it will be in, that’s not my prerogative. You need to ask them. We’re assured that the issues will be in there,” the leader on social issues in the House GOP conference explained.

Former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman (NRCC) Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), who has been deeply involved in the planning of the new “governing agenda,” told The Hill that leaders were still “wrestling” out the matter of social issues.

Cole added that social issues will be included in the final version of the document, thanks to the “clever” thinking of Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tasked McCarthy as chairman of the project “America Speaking Out,” which will culminate in the new Contract with America-style document.  

“Kevin and [project Vice-Chairman] Peter Roskam (Ill.) have done a brilliant job of this, they’ve done really well and there was a lot of discussion about this [among deputy whips on Thursday] but the reality is I think people, broadly, are very satisfied. I think they are down to the final tweaking,” Cole said in an interview with The Hill.

For the most part, job creation, spending restraint and national security topped the list of relatively non-controversial action items that Republicans would have included in their wishlist of to-do items should they regain control of Congress in the fall.

Hot-button controversial social issues including abortion were not included in 1994’s seminal Contract with America.

But social conservatives made a concerted effort to avoid such a mistake this year and have actively lobbied GOP leaders to include their issues in any legislative agenda or risk losing their support.

“The way they do it will be things like no funding of abortions. But it’s laid out – it’s really pro-growth, fiscal reform, repeal the healthcare, a national security piece and it’s just remarkably balanced and wherever you’re at, you can be comfortable with,” Cole explained.

Leading anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List was among a collection of traditional family organizations lobbying GOP leaders to include social issues such as abortion, the Defense of Marriage Act and religious liberty in the final product.

Last week, that collection of organizations delivered 20,000 letters to GOP leaders from their activist community demanding that social issues make it into the new commitment to America.

“From the beginning our goal was to help remind the leadership that any document ought to include the full legs of the stool. The three issue sets that really form the base of the Republican Party. To not include a third of that would be very difficult for a party at a time with important goals,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser explained to The Hill.

GOP leaders told advocacy and interest group leaders last week that the yet-to-be-revealed governing agenda was not a party platform, “it’s an action item list,” according to a meeting participant.

“There is a difference between a platform and a governing document – abosolutely. However, issues come up – a governing document for the Congress ought to reflect, to a large extent, what the platform is because right out of the box, there are going to be issues that present themselves,” Dannenfelser said.

The third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), told an auditorium of Values Voter Summit participants Friday that they should demand no less than that GOP leaders include social issues in the dialogue moving forward.

“Men and women, we must demand, here and now, that the leaders of the Republican Party stand for life, traditional marriage and religious liberty without apology,” the House GOP Conference chairman told the hundreds of socially conservative voters in attendance. Pence went on to win the straw poll Saturday.

And his words gave Dannenfelser, at least, “certification that the whole base is included in the document.”