A promise Republicans made to the voters -- the Pledge to America -- outlined a new way forward. It enumerated policies and processes by which we would help restore America to her greatness and give the American people the transparency and results they deserve.
Chief among the promises was a commitment to cut $100 billion from the budget "in the first year alone." Because the previous Democrat Congress didn't fulfill their responsibility to finish the fiscal 2011 budget, House Republicans ambitiously debated for more than 90 hours in an open amendment process. The result -- H.R. 1 -- reduced spending by a prorated $68 billion for the remaining months of that fiscal year -- and did it in a transparent, open process.
But then, in what would turn out to be the first of many punts, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Obama refused to consider H.R. 1. So throughout February and March, the House agreed to a number of short-term continuing resolutions, attempting to "play ball," but eventually throwing in the towel for fear of a government shutdown.
Cutting $68 billion instead of $100 billion was justified because it was a partial-year budget, but somehow that figure dropped to $38 billion, then to $23 billion, and eventually to only $350 million in real spending cuts. Now that the final numbers are in from last year, we know that the federal government actually spent more.
The Pledge to America also articulated the need for a budget that addresses the nation's long-term financial challenges. And the House Republican budget adopted in April -- the Path to Prosperity -- acknowledged that reality.
Due in large part to entitlement spending, America is on a debt crash course of its own making. Failure to balance the budget and stop adding to the $15 trillion in debt America already has will all but destroy the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.
The Path to Prosperity proposed boldness -- something Washington had not seen in a while -- and nearly all House Republicans agreed to it. While the Path to Prosperity's budget caps were briefly affirmed in Cut, Cap, Balance, they were abandoned in the August deficit deal with Obama and Reid.
Doomsday scenarios about rumored debt default were used to leverage a deal that not only gave the president more than $2 trillion in new debt, but also removed all but 12 members of Congress from having to make tough decisions about the fiscal future of our nation. In the end, the supercommittee -- together with President Obama -- failed as well.
But, perhaps the greatest failure of the Pledge took place in the last few weeks. With the "megabus" and the 60-day Social Security tax deal, Republicans ignored both policy and process promises.
Procedurally, both bills were rushed through without close review. The 72-hour rule to allow congressional and public scrutiny was ignored, as was the prohibition on bundling legislation.
Members had roughly one day and 13 hours to read and debate the 1,200 pages of nine appropriations bills contained in the $1 trillion plus megabus. The Social Security tax deal was approved in less than two minutes after Congress had left town.
And, policywise, the uncertainty of a 60-day Social Security deal, combined with the single largest budget in American history, clearly shows that the Pledge was not the plan as the year ended.
It's amazing that so soon after the 2010 elections the Republican House of Representatives is now faced with having to rebuild trust with the voters. Instead of focusing on real tax and policy reform to unleash the most effective wealth-creating engine on Earth -- the American people -- the House handed Obama a gift by caving on the Social Security tax with a measly two-month extension.
The Pledge is part of the reason why there was a political tidal wave in Washington; abandoning our commitment to the Pledge is part of the reason why Congress has an all-time-low 11 percent approval rating.
It's time to blow the dust off the Pledge to America and finish the job the American people sent us to Washington to do.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp is a Kansas Republican who serves on the House Budget, Agriculture, and Veterans' Affairs committees.