The Pledge to America was the Republicans' legislative manifesto outlining their priorities and vision for governing. John Boehner, who became speaker of the House in 2010, said he would not let the Pledge gather dust, vowing to bring each of the more than two-dozen proposals to a vote.
He delivered. We found only one pledge that House Republicans never voted on during the 112th Congress. To be sure, that doesn't mean that most tenets of the Pledge became law. Many ideas and bills were voted on and passed by the House but rejected -- or never considered -- by the Democrat-controlled Senate. But Boehner's promise was to "bring each Pledge proposal before the House for a vote,” and that he did.
The Pledge is divided into sections on jobs, government reform, health care, cutting spending and national security. We have put many of the individual pledges to the test on our GOP Pledge-O-Meter, rating how House Republicans fared on keeping their own promises to voters.
(A brief note about our procedure: in rating individual pledges, we rate the outcome, not the intention. So we rated the House's promise to repeal the national health care reform law a Promise Broken because even though the House passed bills doing just that, the effort went nowhere in the Senate and the law still stands. But for purposes of this pledge, we count the House's action on the law in the plus column because the promise was more modest -- Boehner just pledged to bring the matter to a vote.)
Most other Republican health care proposals met the same fate. GOP leaders promised to enact medical liability reform, expand health savings accounts and permanently prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions. The House passed bills on all those points, but the Senate took no action on them. Republican-sponsored legislation allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines never came to a vote, the only concrete promise in the Pledge to America that didn't have its day on the House floor.
On the jobs front, Republicans stood tough against President Barack Obama on preventing income tax rates from rising, passed a bill to give small business owners a tax deduction and another aimed at restricting red tape in Washington. Their efforts to repeal the small business mandate in the health care law succeeded -- Obama signed it on April 14, 2011.
They acted early on their pledges to bring new standards of transparency and decorum to their own work. A House rule enacted in early 2011 required a citation from the Constitution providing justification for all proposed bills. They imposed a ban on lumping unrelated proposals into "must-pass” legislation, such as appropriations bills -- though we found they broke that pledge during the 2010 battle over the debt ceiling.
Cutting federal spending -- a treasured priority in the House -- received ample attention. The YouCut program brought in ideas for reining in spending nearly every week, the House cut its own budget by 10 percent over two years and the budgets passed by the House for 2012 and 2013 drastically reined in future spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. In other areas, they opposed "cap-and-trade” climate legislation, passed bills aimed at securing the border and held firm on the handling of terrorism suspects.
A handful of items in the Pledge to America, such as the one to "fight efforts to use a national crisis for political gain,” did not lend themselves to a vote by Congress, so we're not counting them in our evaluation of this pledge. Of all the promises that Republicans made and could turn into a bill to vote on, they did so in every case but one. We rate this a Promise Kept.