'Contract' 2.0: House Republicans Roll Out 'A Pledge to America'

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., acknowledged the plan is light on specifics when it comes to spending cuts: "We have a long way to go to restore our fiscal solvency to our national government. We have to put everything on the table, from defense to domestic spending to even entitlements, and Republicans if given the opportunity to lead the Congress again and will be prepared to take on those challenges."

In addition to the policy agendas set forward, the pledge is an attempt at some image rehabilitation. A top House Republican told ABC News that the pledge is "an important milestone showing the American people we have learned our lesson and we are ready to govern."

Republicans are seeking to make clear they have no intention of returning to the big spending and high deficits of the previous Republican Congress.

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"We spent too much. We lost our way," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., told ABC News earlier today. "We are here trying to reclaim our country."

When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., unveiled the Contract With America on the Capitol steps in 1994, he called it "the boldest, most decisive, clearest contract in the history of the United States."

Like that "contract," the pledge includes specific pieces of legislation, many of which Republicans already have tried -- and failed -- to get through the Democratic Congress.

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The pledge also is an effort to respond to the allegation that the GOP is the "party of no."

"It's important to show what Republicans are for," another House Republican involved in creating the pledge told ABC News.

Democrats Attack Pledge to America as Return to Bush Policies

Even though rank-and-file Republicans only got their first look at the document late Wednesday afternoon, Boehner and the other Republican architects of the plan let the backbenchers do most of the talking.

House members Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, Bill Cassidy, R-La., Matt Thornberry, R-Texas, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., each fleshed out a specific component of the pledge. That may be a nod to the fact that Republicans establishment is no more popular these days than the Democrats.

Even before the document was released, Democrats were already attacking the pledge as a return to the policies of the Bush administration.

"Republicans want to return to the same failed economic policies that hurt millions of American and threatened our economy," Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon.

The House majority leader's office issued a statement, saying it imagined a true Republican pledge would read like this:

"I pledge allegiance to the hedge fund managers of Wall Street, and the consumer protections I want to take away ...

"I pledge allegiance to the wealthiest of the wealthy, who we will protect before the middle class ...

"I pledge allegiance to the oil companies, whom we apologized to ...

"... with a recession and huge deficits for all."

When ABC News asked Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., about Democrats' accusations that the pledge is merely a return to failed policies of the past, he conceded that his party had made mistakes they needed to own and move past.

"We walked away from the principles of fiscal responsibly and the American people walked away from us," he said. "This shows the American people we are listening now."

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