By: Newt Gingrich
Date: September 24, 1994
Source: Gingrich, Newt. "Republican Contract With America." September 27, 1994. Available online at ; website home-page: http://www.house.gov (accessed October 15, 20020.
About the Author: Newton "Newt" Gingrich (1943–) was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1971, he earned a Ph.D. in American history from Tulane University. After serving briefly as a professor at West Georgia College, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1978. After leading the Republican Party to capturing the majority of the House in 1994, his colleagues elected him to the powerful position of Speaker. After some ethical lapses, Gingrich resigned his congressional seat in 1998.
In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (served 1933–1945) New Deal radically changed the role and the scope of the federal government. Though his legislative program did not end the Great Depression or its attending massive unemployment, it nevertheless permanently expanded the power of the federal government. Under President Lyndon B. Johnson's (served 1963–1969) Great Society programs of the 1960s, the federal government continued to grow—assuming additional responsibility over the environment, education, and the arts.
Since the 1950s, conservative Republicans harshly criticized the Democratic Party's big government policies. Conservatives argued that these policies not only failed to solve pressing economic and social problems, but also sacrificed individual liberties in the process. Instead, they maintained that the power of the federal government should be scaled back, and responsibility given back to state and local governments, the private sector, families and individuals. During the 1980s, conservatives were encouraged when Ronald Reagan (served 1981–1989) won the White House. However, the Democrats, who continued to control Congress, thwarted much of President Reagan's conservative agenda. Republicans realized that in order to transform the nature of government, they would have to wrestle control of Congress away from the Democrats. This would be a formidable task. By 1994, the federal government's budget, with over 20,000 permanent employees, exceeded $1.6 trillion annually.
As the 1994 congressional elections neared, Republicans recognized a golden opportunity to win a clear, conservative majority in the House. In his first two years in office, President Bill Clinton's (served 1993–2001) popularity waned. Clinton experienced bitter battles over gays in the military, tax increases, ethical charges, and health care reform during his first two years in office. Although Democrats had controlled Congress and the presidency for two years, they had failed to effect substantive policy changes. The United States was in an anti-incumbent mood.
Republicans, however, realized that Clinton's unpopularity alone was not enough for them to win control of the House. To achieve this, Republicans crafted a positive, detailed ten-point political agenda. It sought to capitalize on widespread voter disillusionment, portraying Republicans as forward thinkers—in stark contrast to the old, tired Democratic policies of the past. In September 1994, 367 Republican candidates for congressional office staged a mass signing of the "Contract With America" on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The candidates promised to roll back federal power by passing all ten items within the first one hundred days of the 1995–1996 session, echoing the famous "First Hundred Days" of Roosevelt's New Deal. "If we break this Contract, throw us out," they pledged.
In November 1994, the Republicans regained control of both branches of Congress for the first time in forty years. House Republicans won control of the House (235 to 197), including twenty-two seats formerly held by Democrats. Senate Republicans gained a 54 to 47 majority, picking up seven seats—including two incumbent Democratic senators who switched to the GOP. Further, Gingrich became Speaker of the House. As the Contract with America's signatories promised, the entire platform was acted upon within the first hundred days. Nine out of the ten items passed the House. Only an attempt to draft a proposed constitutional amendment involving term limits was defeated. In the end, the House set an example by cutting one-third of House committees, along with one-third of committee staffs. Only two of the ten items, however, were passed into law. First, Congress would no longer be exempt itself from the laws, mandates, and regulations it imposed on the rest of the nation. Moreover, the federal government was prohibited from imposing unfunded mandates on state and local governments.
The Republican "revolution" soon stalled. After announcing "he had gotten the message," Clinton moderated his legislative agenda and cleverly depicted congressional Republicans as ideological extremists. In 1996, Clinton won reelection in a landslide victory.
Primary Source: "Republican Contract with America"
SYNOPSIS: In a stroke of political genius, Gingrich advertises the Contract with America in an October 1994 issue of the TV Guide, which had actress Suzanne Somers on the cover. Although the magazine does not normally carry political ads, Republicans realized that it had a tremendous circulation, particularly among independent voters whom the GOP desperately needed to win the election.
As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.
This year's election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.
Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act "with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." To restore accountability to Congress.To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
- FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
- SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
- THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
- FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
- FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
- SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
- SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
- EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero baseline budgeting.
Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.
- The Fiscal Responsibility Act: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.
- The Taking Back of Our Streets Act: An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in-sentencing, "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.
- The Personal Responsibility Act: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
- The Family Reinforcement Act: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society.
- The American Dream Restoration Act: A $500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief.
- The National Security Restoration Act: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world.
- The Senior Citizens Fairness Act: Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance to let Older Americans keep more of what they have earned over the years.
- The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act: Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs and raise worker wages.
- The Common Sense Legal Reform Act: "Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.
- The Citizen Legislature Act: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
Further, we will instruct the House Budget Committee to report to the floor and we will work to enact additional budget savings, beyond the budget cuts specifically included in the legislation described above, to ensure that the Federal budget deficit will be less than it would have been without the enactment of these bills.
Respecting the judgment of our fellow citizens as we seek their mandate for reform, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with America.
Carter, Dan T. From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution 1963–1994. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.
Drew, Elizabeth. On the Edge: The Clinton Presidency. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
Gingrich, Newt. To Renew America. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
Gayner, Jeffrey B. "The Contract With America: Implementing New Ideas In the U.S." The Heritage Foundation, 1995. Available online at http://www.heritage.org/Research/PoliticalPhilosophy/HL549.... ; website home page http://www.heritage.org (accessed April 4, 2003).
Saletan, William. "What I Saw at the Decline of the Revolution." Mother Jones, July-August 1996, 47.