By Molly K. Hooper and Michael O’Brien - 09/23/10 11:54 PM EDT
STERLING, Va. — Republicans, intent on winning control of the House in November, on Thursday officially unveiled their “Pledge to America” to cut wasteful spending, foster job creation and unravel President Obama’s healthcare law.
Thirteen House GOP lawmakers addressed TV cameras and journalists from a wood-block platform in the middle of a lumber warehouse in this suburban city to detail how their blueprint would reduce the size of government.
Twenty-five television cameras, three satellite trucks and dozens of reporters and GOP staffers were on hand for the media event, even though the document was leaked to the press on Wednesday night and was widely reported.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) held up the glossy 45-page document, subtitled “A new governing agenda built on the priorities of our nation, the principles we stand for and America’s founding values,” to show that Republicans had listened to the public over the past several months.
Boehner told the crowd that the pledge is an acknowledgment that Republicans got off track when they were in power during the George W. Bush administration. Democrats seized control of the House in 2006.
“We get it. And this is why, when we outline in here our Pledge to America, I can tell you we are very serious about implementing our pledge,” Boehner, the would-be Speaker, told dozens of journalists sitting in the stuffy warehouse, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling pallets of plywood.
Republicans chose to hold the 45-minute press conference in the Tart Lumber Co. warehouse, nearly an hour from Capitol Hill. The event was closed to the public.
A chain-link fence with barbed wire surrounded the shingle-roofed lumberyard. TV crews were set up in an empty parking lot in front of the business.
Following the event, Boehner, sporting rolled-up shirtsleeves and business-casual attire, ventured out of the gates, surrounded by reporters, to personally greet the two dozen or so onlookers stationed across the street.
The crew of supporters waved American flags and carried signs that read, “Sterling, Va. Welcomes You.”
One of the gentlemen was clanking a teakettle in support of the GOP, and offered to give it to Boehner.
“Keep up the good work! Can I keep this as a gift?” Boehner said before sliding into his black Suburban headed back to Washington.
Two protesters watched the scene unfold and suggested Republicans were being hypocritical.
“I think it’s very telling that the unveiling of their transparent future of democracy is being done inside a barbed-wire fence, where the public is kept outside but the press and their invited 35 guests are allowed in. This is the future of government,” Loudoun County Board of Supervisors member Stevens Miller (D) told The Hill.
But their criticism didn’t dampen the spirit of a GOP House candidate who happened to be visiting the nation’s capital this week and opted to make the trek to Sterling for the event.
Mark Zaccaria, fresh from his GOP primary victory in the House race to challenge Rhode Island incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, was blocked out of the event as well.
Zaccaria said he was briefed on the “pledge” on Wednesday by House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.).
“I was at a briefing that Mike Pence gave at lunch yesterday. I believe I have the details down, but it sounds really consistent with what I would plan to do and I’m thrilled to sign it as soon as I get my hands on a copy,” Zaccaria said.
The pledge focuses mainly on fiscal issues, but social conservatives did not complain on Thursday. They noted that gay marriage and abortion are addressed in the preamble to the pledge.
“At the end of the day, I think the document is a good start. It’s a solid foundation to build upon,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told The Hill.
Senate Republican leaders did not craft the pledge, but they released a statement on Thursday backing it: “While the White House will retain the veto pen, House and Senate Republicans will focus on making America more competitive, reducing the size and cost of government, keeping our nation strong and secure and reining in the massive healthcare costs and mandates imposed by the Democrats’ health spending bill.”
Democrats ripped the pledge. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said, “All House Republicans did was recycle the failed economic policies of President Bush that put special interests and multinational CEOs above American families: tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas, unpaid-for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and repealing Wall Street reforms.”