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Republican House Representatives, “Republican Contract with America,” 1994

Use this primary source text to explore key historical events.

Suggested Sequencing


From 1955 to 1995, the Democratic Party held a continuous majority in the House of Representatives. During this time, the federal government grew substantially, leading some critics to argue it was becoming more and more out of touch with the people it was designed to represent. In the lead-up to the 1994 election, Republican congressmen Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey wrote the “Contract with America” to outline the policy actions their party would take if they gained a majority in the House. All but two sitting Republicans in the House and all no incumbent Republican candidates signed the statement. The document proved to be a persuasive piece of campaign propaganda: In November of that year, the Republicans made huge gains in Congress and took control of the House of Representatives.

Sourcing Questions

  1. Who wrote this document?
  2. Why did they write this document?

Vocabulary Text
As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print. This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.
Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
• FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
audit(n): an official inspection of financial accounts and records • SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
• THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
• FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
proxy votes: representatives could delegate his or her voting power to a different representative to vote in his or her absence • FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
• SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
• SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
zero base-line budgeting(n): a type of budgeting that requires frequent review to ensure that all new and recurring expenditures are necessary • EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.
Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.
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. . . .
AFDC: Aid to Families with Dependent Children, a federal program that provided financial assistance to children of low-income families 3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children’s education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society. . . .
6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world. . . .
10. THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
Further, we will instruct the House Budget Committee to report to the floor and we will work to enact additional budget savings, beyond the budget cuts specifically included in the legislation described above, to ensure that the Federal budget deficit will be less than it would have been without the enactment of these bills.
Respecting the judgment of our fellow citizens as we seek their mandate for reform, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with America.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What “historic changes” would occur, according to the authors, if a new majority took control of the House of Representatives?
  2. When would the new Republican majority pass the eight major reforms? How does this reveal this source to be election propaganda?
  3. What bill concerning “fiscal responsibility” did the Contract with America state would be brought to the floor of Congress? What was in this act?
  4. What foreign policy act did the Contract with America state would be brought to the floor of Congress? What was in this act?

Historical Reasoning Questions

  1. Many of the bills suggested by the Contract with America failed to become law or were altered before being signed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. How does this alter your interpretation of the document?
  2. Compare the Contract with America with Republican Party principles in the modern day. Has the party undergone any serious ideological changes over the past few decades?

“Republican Contract with America”