Even as the most fiery of the health reform rhetoric cools, mostly self-financed Colorado GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tom Wiens is making his signed pledge to repeal health care legislation available to the press. Political pledges are usually easy to write off as mere gimmicks, like the one signed publicly by state Senate Majority Leader Josh Penry in 2006 in which he said he wouldn’t run for higher office until his term lapsed. “Pledge? What pledge?” he shrugged two years later. The health reform repeal pledge, though, is sponsored by the ferocious Club for Growth, which will hold signers to it.
The Club for Growth has been vastly influential in moving the GOp to the right, at least on fiscal matters. It established the “RINO Watch” which works to monitor “Republican office holders around the nation who have advanced egregious anti-growth, anti-freedom or anti-free market policies.”
The pledge reads:
“I, Tom J Wiens, hereby pledge to the people of my state (Colorado) upon my election to the U.S. Senate to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010 and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”
Wiens signed it yesterday with at least two witnesses present.
As the Colorado Independent reported last month, if any organization can nudge Republicans toward a repeal pledge and keep them honest after they take it, it’s the Club for Growth. It launched the one-paragraph “Repeal It” petition in February, when many considered health care reform a dead letter. In the weeks since reform passed, the number of signatories who hold or are running for electoral office has surged past 400. In addition to the Colorado candidates who have at least verbally pledged to repeal– Ken Buck, Cory Gardner, Jane Norton– that number includes Senate candidates like New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Kentucky’s Trey Grayson and Illinois’s Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who are warily viewed by Tea Partiers and conservative voters, but who have been able to use the repeal message to prove their bona fides.
So far it seems the only political mistake Republicans can make on health care is to signal to the base that full repeal might not be a priority. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) opened himself to attack from a challenger in his U.S. Senate bid by arguing that Obama’s presence in the White House made repeal unlikely. That was worrying to some Republicans, whose best-case scenario in 2011 is a Republican Congress that would be unable to override Obama’s vetos.
“I see where Republicans are with this,” one GOP House aide told Washington Independent reporter Dave Weigel, “but it drives me insane. What happens if you run, win, and don’t repeal?”