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Monday, September 18, 2006

When is 12 Years an Eternity?

When it's the dozen years the Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress and yet haven't delivered on their promise to restore responsibility to federal spending. In fact, that was the first promise of the 1994 Contract with America that led to the GOP regaining control of Congress for the first time in 40 years:

"1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses."

True, that measure was voted on by Congress, but failed to attract sufficient support to become law. But the proposal also represented the GOP's traditional commitment to keeping spending under control, which could have been achieved in other ways.

It's that spirit underlying the Contract with America and indeed the GOP's conservative foundation that the party's congressional leadership has forgotten in recent years. Instead, they've been spending tax dollars like drunk sailors.

Voters figure, reasonably, that if the GOP hasn't delivered on the original promise to control spending in 12 years, odds are they simply aren't going to do it.

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund connects the dots and explains why this failure is fundamental to understanding the GOP's unnecessarily weak situation going into the final stages of the 2006 congressional campaign :

"The federal government is now an astounding 185 times as big in real terms as it was a century ago. A general sense that Republicans have forgotten why they were sent to Washington is a big reason why only 43% of Republicans approve of Congress in this month's Fox News poll. If Republicans can't better explain how they plan to get a grip on spending, many voters will conclude they both deserve and need a time-out from power. "

What is especially distressing about this is that the consequences of GOP's spending profligacy could be coming home just when the nation most needs the party's traditional strength on foreign policy issues in order to fight and win the War on Terror.

But voters aren't stupid. Why send a drunk sailor to fight a war you can't afford to lose?