Two Republican Takes on Pledge to America

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country,we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC.Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, and Republican candidate for Connecticut's 4th Congressional district Dan Debicella were on the Brian Lehrer Show today to talk about the Republican Pledge to America released this Thursday.

Newt Gingrich, one of the authors of the Contract with America, which helped sweep a Republican majoritity into Congress in the mid-term elections of 1994, says the Pledge to America house Republicans released yesterday is a good start. He told listeners to The Brian Lehrer Show that he wished the pledge called for a ban on earmarks and a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

What the pledge does do is a very healthy step in the right direction. It says no taxes increase in a recession. It says we have to focus on creating jobs. It says we have to control spending.

Focusing on a balanced budget during the Clinton administration was very helpful to Congressional Republicans, Gingrich said.

While I was speaker we kept spending down to 2.9 percent a year, the lowest rate of increase since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. We balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in federal debt and did so while cutting taxes for the first time in 16 years.

Gingrich called the Pledge "a very impressive first step" and "a radically better document than anything the Democrats have done."

Dan Debicella, Republican candidate from Connecticut's 4th congressional district wasn't as impressed. Soon after House Minority Leader John Boehner unveiled the Pledge to America Thursday, Debissella issued a press released saying he was independent of it.

He said that Fairfield County voters want to elect someone who will represent them, not a party.

If they are going to elect a Republican, they don’t want someone who is just going to rubber stamp an agenda. They want someone who is going to think for themselves. And I think that the pledge, while it has a lot of good ideas in it, in some areas it doesn't go far enough and in some areaas, specifically social issues, I just disagree with the Republican party.

Debicella criticized the pledge for failing to identify ways to reduce spending on Social Security and Medicare.

We can't balance the budget just on discretionary spending. We are going to have to tackle entitlement reform and we're going to have to do that in a bipartisan manner.

The document calls for cancelling the rest of the TARP bank bailout and stop all stimulous payments, but doesn't address military spending, which Debissella also criticized. 

Hopefully as we're pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq we're going to be able to ramp down outr defense spending. But we also have to be smarter about the dollars we are spending. We can't be buying the umpteenth aircraft carrier. We have to be focused on buying cheaper and more effective troop-based equipment.

Debissella faces Democrat Jim Himes in the November 2nd election. Himes is defending his seat for the first time, after he knocked off Republican Chris Shays in the 2008 election.

Listen to the entire conversation on The Brian Lehrer Show.