It’s time for a new “Contract with America.”
The original contract was a legislative agenda advocated for by the Republican Party during the 1994 congressional election campaign. The contract detailed actions the Republicans promised to take if they became the majority party in the United States House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. It is credited for playing a key part in sweeping the Republican Party to control of both the House and Senate following the 1994 elections.
The Contract was written by Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey, but many of the ideas originated in the Heritage Foundation. The Contract was revolutionary in its commitment to offering specific legislation for a vote, describing in detail the precise plan of the Republican Congressional candidates. Insofar as it was politically possible, the Republicans followed through on their promises.
A new Contract is needed.
I suggest something along the following lines:
Republican candidates for the House and Senate should commit themselves to rewrite the rules of procedure in both chambers to achieve the following:
- Excepting appropriation bills for previously approved projects, no legislation shall be advanced that deals with more than one general sphere of operations. (As an example, an agriculture bill would deal with agriculture and could not contain any riders concerning defense or foreign relations.)
- Legislative bills must be kept reasonably short. (Proper length is debatable, but bills running to hundreds of pages are rife with the possibility of being stuffed with all sorts of pork and other undesirable additions.)
I am not familiar with the arcane business of writing bills for Congress, but I do know that both houses of Congress are free to write their own rules regarding legislative procedures. The aim of new rules should be to keep legislation as brief, precise and understandable as possible. This would also help a President make more effective use of the veto. For years Presidents have requested line-item veto powers. Short, specific legislation from Congress might obviate that need and help restore some degree of fiscal sanity on Capitol Hill.
If Republican Congressional candidates announced their support for these legislative reforms, I believe they would be swept into office in overwhelming numbers.