Conservatives Release Questions for Candidates

The Republican Study Committee released a list of suggested questions today for House majority leader hopefuls — Reps. John Boehner (R.-Ohio), John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) and current Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.). The document is reprinted below.

Limiting Federal Spending & the Size & Scope of the Federal Government

Entitlement Reform: In 1963, mandatory spending comprised only 25% of federal spending. In 1983, it reached 45%, and it is now 54% of federal spending. By 2014, it is expected to reach nearly 60% of federal spending. Far more troubling is the fact that by 2040, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will consume the entirety of today’s budget, as these programs absorb the retirement of the Baby Boom generation.

  • Do you support an entitlement cap to slow the growth of current entitlement programs or at least to ensure that no additional entitlement increases are enacted?
  • If so, would that reform resemble a statutory cap that slows entitlement growth to inflation and any new beneficiaries?
  • What are your plans for ensuring that a Republican-controlled Congress tackles the issue of Social Security? Will you schedule the Ryan-Johnson-Shaw GROW Account bill for floor consideration?
  • Will you commit to making spending reconciliation an annual occurrence? Will the House consider spending reconciliation this year apart from merely passing last year’s bill?

Earmarking: According to Citizens Against Government Waste, the FY05 appropriations bills included 13,997 earmarks, an increase of 31 percent over the FY04 total of 10,656. The cost of these earmarks totaled $27.3 billion. From FY03 to FY04, the number of earmarks increased by 13 percent. These figures do not reflect the high number of earmarks in the transportation reauthorization bill.

  • Do you support earmark reform to at least slow the practice of earmarking?
  • Do you support requiring an earmark to be identified in the text of a bill (as opposed to only in the committee report)?
  • Do you support banning earmarks to private entities?
  • Do you support a moratorium on earmarks?
  • Do you support requiring Members to submit their appropriations request (including an explanation of the earmark’s merit and constitutionality) into the Congressional Record and requiring the Appropriations and Transportation Committees to post on their website any earmarks granted?
  • Will you pledge to not request earmarks yourself as a way to lead the Conference?
  • Will you pledge to ensure that any lobbying reform passed this year address the explosion in earmarks?

Steering Committee: The Majority Leader has two steering committee votes and thus an enhanced ability to ensure conservative committee chairman, subcommittee chairman, and committee membership on the key spending committees. Some current chairmen make it a practice to report bills with overwhelming bipartisan support (even if they include bad policy to attract such support).

  • Will you vote for prospective committee chairmen who are determined to pass conservative legislation, even if it fails to attract Democrat support?

  • Will you vote for members to fill key committee slots who are committed to reducing federal spending and to the reconciliation process? Will you ask candidates whether they will be active in finding waste, fraud, and abuse within their committees’ jurisdiction?

Comprehensive Budget Reform: The federal budget has been growing seven times faster than the family budget over the past two generations. With the expiration of the many enforcement measures instituted by Gramm-Rudman-Hollings in 1985, the Budget Enforcement Act in 1990, and the recognition that the Republicans never reformed a spending process written by Democrats (designed to deliver more government, higher taxes, and less freedom), the RSC has put forth numerous proposals.

  • Will you commit to making comprehensive budget reform a priority this year?
  • Do you believe that budget resolutions should have the force of law (joint budget resolutions)?
  • Will you schedule a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment this year?
  • Will you commit to never bringing a bill to the floor in violation of the budget or for which there is not at least a draft CBO score?
  • Will you ensure a roll call vote on bills that expand government or increase spending if requested in advance?

Rules Package: Last year the RSC put forward an alternative rules package in attempt to model the first rules package after the Contract with America, which attempted to immediately infuse the Rules of the House of Representatives with conservative checks (such as automatic roll call votes for budgets, appropriations bills, and tax increases and a higher threshold for raising taxes of three-fifths). The RSC proposals were defeated.

  • Will you commit to open and fundamental overhaul of the House rules to implement as many checks as possible against higher spending and higher taxes for the upcoming Congress?
  • Will you ensure that the Rules Committee does not attempt to waive budget points of order in the special rules it reports to govern floor consideration?
  • Do you support a repeal of the Gephardt rule for debt limit increases?
  • Do you support scaling back the use of the suspension calendar?
  • Do you support adding any increase of entitlements to the list of items already subject to a three-fifths supermajority point of order in House Rules?

Sunsetting: Ronald Reagan once said, “The nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on earth is a government program.” For example, the federal government operates 342 programs engaged in some form of economic development. Nine agencies administer 44 programs that fund economic planning activities alone. In addition, there are more than 50 federal agencies responsible for waging the war on drugs. There are more than 90 programs across 11 different agencies to support the early development of children. Twelve federal agencies are responsible for food safety (the Department of Agriculture inspects meat pizzas while non-meat pizzas are under the Department of Health and Human Services).

  • Do you continue to support Rep. Brady’s sunset commission? What is your strategy for enacting it?
  • Do you support establishing in law automatic rounds of sunsetting on a cyclical basis?
  • Will you instruct the committee chairmen to report legislation to consolidate or eliminate programs within their jurisdiction this year, as if sunsetting was already law?

Defending and Promoting Traditional Family Values

  • With 19 states amending their Constitutions to protect marriage and polls showing that a majority of Americans strongly support protecting traditional marriage, will you commit to a floor vote on a Constitutional amendment regarding marriage during the second session of the 109th Congress?
  • For years, appropriations bills have prevented taxpayer dollars from going to support morally offensive actions, such as paying for abortions, supporting coercive abortion programs, and issuing patents for human embryos. Will you commit to defending current pro-life riders on appropriations bills and actively supporting new pro-life riders?
  • Will you commit to bring to the floor during the second session of the 109th Congress a complete ban on human cloning (sometimes called somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT) for reproductive or research purposes?
  • Adult stem cell research continues to provide real cures for real patients, while embryonic stem cell research has yet to yield any cures in humans, and human embryonic stem cell research has been plagued with ethical violations and other setbacks. Polls also have shown that the majority of Americans do not support tax-payer dollars being used for the creation or destruction of human life for research purposes. Will you commit to defending the President’s position on embryonic stem cell research and not schedule any floor votes that would overturn or expand this policy?
  • Scientific research has produced overwhelming evidence that unborn children can feel pain by 20 weeks gestation. Even abortionists have testified seeing signs of fetal pain during the trials on the Partial Birth Abortion Born Act. Polls have shown that 77 percent of Americans favor laws requiring that women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancies be given information about fetal pain before having an abortion. Will you commit to pressing for action on the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, including committee hearings, markups, and a floor vote during the second session of the 109th Congress?

A recent FOX News poll of Americans has revealed that 81 percent of those polled expressed opposition to excluding religion from public life, 83 percent think nativity scenes should be allowed on public property, 76 percent support displaying the Ten Commandments on government property, 93 percent think the phrase "in God we trust" should remain on our currency, 82 percent favor voluntary prayer in schools, and 77 percent believe the courts have gone too far in taking religion out of public life. Will you commit to having floor votes during the second session of the 109th Congress on protecting religious freedoms, such as the Pledge, the Ten Commandments, religious expression in the public square, etc.?