Back in 1994 when the famed Republican “Contract with America” captured control of Congress for the party, Newt Gingrich, one of its authors, noted that, “Washington is like a sponge. It absorbs waves of change, and it slows them down, and it softens them, and then one morning they cease to exist.”
The Republican Party regained power in the House of Representatives after forty years of Democrat domination. They had a margin of 54 House seats. It had been the largest party swing since 1948. In the Senate, they gained control with the addition of eight seats, and added a ninth when Richard Shelby of Alabama switched parties. Like many Republicans, I can recall thinking that we could now look forward to changes in domestic and foreign policies that conservatives had yearned for throughout the Reagan years.
Even Bill Clinton thought so as well. In his 1996, State of the Union address, he said, “The era of big government is over.” Perhaps he was thinking about the Contract with America because the newly elected Republican majority, in the first hundred days in office, passed legislation that did make changes.
They introduced real welfare reform and the first major tax cut in sixteen years. The Contract produced the first four consecutive balanced budgets since the 1920s and the first independent financial audit of the House. The Contract resulted in House committee meetings to be open to the public, required a three-fifths majority vote to pass tax increases, and a time limit on the terms of all committee chairs. The Contract’s broad promise was to “end