Opposition Republicans promised Thursday that if they win the congressional midterm elections in November they will move to cut taxes, roll back government spending and create jobs. The release of the Republican agenda comes less than six weeks until Election Day and amid public opinion polls that point to likely Republican gains in November at the expense of Democrats.
Congressional Republicans call their plan the "Pledge to America" and it was unveiled at a hardware store in suburban Washington to symbolize their commitment to help small businesses create jobs.
The Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, says his party has been listening to Americans who have grown frustrated with Washington and the administration of President Barack Obama.
"And they see a government in Washington that is not listening, does not get it and, frankly, the American people think that Washington does not really care," Boehner said. "In order to create jobs, we need to end the uncertainty for job creators, end the spending spree in Washington and reform Congress itself."
The Republican plan promises to cut taxes, slash government spending and scale back regulations for business. Under the pledge, Republicans would seek to rollback federal spending to 2008 levels and they would also try to repeal and replace the health care law signed by President Barack Obama.
Republicans say their priorities are to help small businesses create new jobs, reform Congress so it is more responsive to the people and continue to provide for a strong national defense.
Democrats were quick to dismiss the agenda as a rehash of Republican policies under former President George W. Bush and a return to when Republicans controlled Congress prior to the 2006 election.
That theme has been adopted by President Obama as he campaigns for Democratic congressional candidates around the country, including this recent stop in New York City.
"It is still fear versus hope. It is still the past versus the future. It is still a choice between sliding backward and moving forward. That is what this election is all about. And that is the choice you will face in November," Mr. Obama said.
Political pollsters and experts say there is little doubt that concerns about the economy will dominate the November 2 election, especially worries about the high unemployment rate, now at 9.6 percent.
Karlyn Bowman monitors public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. She noted a recent survey in which a high number of respondents knew of someone who was out of work.
"And 70 percent of Americans said they knew someone who had lost a job. That number and the other pollsters who asked that question has been a continuous 60 to 70 percent for the last year and a half. No other issue comes close to dominating the electoral landscape as the economy does this year," Bowman said.
Public opinion polls suggest Republicans will do well in November and may be in a position to gain the 39 seats they need to retake control of the House. Republicans need a gain of 10 seats to win back control of the Senate, but most analysts say that goal is politically more difficult.
The polls also show that most Americans have a dim view of Congress generally and that they lack faith in both major political parties. In fact, most surveys show lower ratings for Republicans in general than for Democrats.
Even conservative supporters of the so called Tea Party movement are skeptical of Republicans, says pollster Doug Schoen. Schoen has co-authored a new book on the rise of the Tea Party movement.
"While the Tea Party movement has, at this point, quite substantial disdain for the Democrats, it has almost equal disdain for the Republicans," Schoen said. "I think it is undeniably clear that in November Tea Party movement members will vote 75 or 80 or 85 percent for the Republicans just because they are not the Democrats, they are not Obama's party."
The legislative agenda released by Republican congressional leaders bears some resemblance to the 1994 "Contract With America" that helped Republicans take control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Although the House passed several parts of the "Contract With America", much of it was blocked in the Senate during former President Bill Clinton's first term in office.