The 1996 Republican Platform

Adopted August 12, 1996


"On November 8, 1994, the American people sent a message to Washington.... Their message is my mandate: To rein in government and reconnect it to the values of the American people. That means making government a whole lot smaller, a lot less arrogant, and getting it out of matters best left to the states, cities, and families across America."
Bob Dole, March 10, 1995 in Washington, D. C.

We are the party of small, responsible and efficient government, joining our neighbors in cities and counties, rather than distant bureaucrats, to build a just society and caring communities. We therefore assert the power of the American people over government, rather than the other way around. Our agenda for change, profound and permanent change in the way government behaves, is based on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

For more than half a century, that solemn compact has been scorned by liberal Democrats and the judicial activism of the judges they have appointed. We will restore the force of the Tenth Amendment and, in the process, renew the trust and respect which hold together a free society. As its first initiative enacted into law, the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill launched that effort early in 1995 by forbidding the imposition of new unfunded mandates upon State and local taxpayers. From now on, if official Washington promises benefits, official Washington must pay for them. We will apply that same principle to the ill-conceived Motor-Voter Act, the Democrats' costly invitation to ballot fraud.

To permanently restore balance in the federal system, States must have the proper tools to act as a counterforce to the Federal Government. Our country's founders attempted to carefully balance power between the two levels. The Tenth Amendment, as well as the ability of State legislatures to initiate constitutional amendments, and other constitutional tools given to States to protect their role in the system have now been either eroded away, given away, or rendered impossible to use. Thus, States lack the tools necessary to do their job as a counterbalance to the national government.

We call upon Congress, governors, State legislators and local leaders to adopt structural reforms that will permanently restore balance in our federal system. In this Information Era of uncertainty and rapid change, it is government close to home, controlled by neighborhood and community leaders, that can best respond to the needs and values of all citizens.

As a first step in reforming government, we support elimination of the Departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Energy, and the elimination, defunding or privatization of agencies which are obsolete, redundant, of limited value, or too regional in focus. Examples of agencies we seek to defund or to privatize are the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Legal Services Corporation.

In addition, we support Republican-sponsored legislation that would require the original sponsor of proposed federal legislation to cite specific constitutional authority for the measure.

A Citizens' Congress

Even with these structural changes, a system of government is only as good as the women and men who serve within it. When the voters of 1994 elected Republican majorities in both the House and Senate for the first time in forty years, Capitol Hill had been an institution steeped in corruption and contemptuous of reform. Congressional Republicans changed things, from the ground up. They:

We will continue our fight against gerrymandered congressional districts designed to thwart majority rule. We will eliminate made-in-Washington schemes to rig the election process under the guise of campaign reform. True reform is indeed needed: ending taxpayer subsidies for campaigns, strengthening party structures to guard against rogue operations, requiring full and immediate disclosure of all contributions, and cracking down on the indirect support, or "soft money," by which special interest groups underwrite their favored candidates.

Cleaning Up Government

In 1992, Bill Clinton promised "the most ethical Administration in the history of the Republic." Instead, the Clinton Administration has been rife with scandal. An unprecedented four Independent Counsels have been appointed since the Clinton Inauguration to investigate various allegations of wrongdoing by members of this Administration. The Clinton White House has abused executive power in both the White House Travel Office firings situation and in the FBI files matter. The FBI Director said there have been "egregious violations of privacy" in the gathering of FBI files of officials who worked in the White House under Republican administrations. We believe that misuse of law enforcement authorities for partisan political ends is no trivial matter. Such abuses strike at the heart of the relationship between citizen and government and undermine the rule of law and confidence in our leaders.

Scandals in government are not limited to possible criminal violations. The public trust is violated when taxpayers money is treated as a slush fund for special interest groups who oppose urgently needed reforms. For example, the Democrats have denied school vouchers for poor children in the nation's capital at the demand of special interest unions. They have blocked urgently needed legal reforms at the command of the trial lawyers, now the biggest source of revenue for the Democrat party. They have rejected reforms to improve the workplace to please union bosses who committed $35 million to aid the Clinton reelection effort.

It is time to restore honor and integrity to government. We propose to:

We will end welfare for lobbyists. Every year, the federal government gives away billions of dollars in grants. Much of that money goes to interest groups which engage in political activity and issue advocacy at the taxpayers' expense. This is an intolerable abuse of the public's money. A Republican Congress will enact legislation, currently blocked by Bill Clinton's congressional allies, to make groups choose between grants and lobbying.

We will establish Truth in Testimony, requiring organizations which receive government funds and testify before Congress to disclose those funds. Our "Let America Know" legislation will force public disclosure of all taxpayer subsidies and lobbying by groups seeking grants. We will permit "private attorney general" lawsuits against federal grantees to ensure better enforcement of anti-lobbying restrictions. A Republican administration will impose accountability on grantees, to reveal what the public is getting for its money, and will end the process of automatic grant renewal. We will halt the funding of frivolous and politicized research grants.

Streamlining Government

Republicans believe we can streamline government and make it more effective through competition and privatization. We applaud the Republican Congress and Republican officials across the country for initiatives to expand the use of competition and privatization in government. It is greater competition - not unchallenged government bureaucracies - that will cut the cost of government, improve the delivery of services, and ensure wise investment in infrastructure. A Dole administration will make competition a centerpiece of government, eliminating duplication and increasing efficiency.

Honest Budgets and Real Numbers

We have a moral responsibility not to leave our children a legacy of monstrous debt. Spending $1.6 trillion a year should be more than an accounting exercise. Restraining government spending, discussed elsewhere in this platform, is part of the solution. Reforming the entire budget process is the rest of it.

Our goal is clarity, simplicity, and accountability in the nation's budget. The keystone of that agenda is the enactment of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget which a majority of congressional Democrats have vigorously opposed. We do not take that step lightly; but then, a $5 trillion debt is no laughing matter for tomorrow's taxpayers. We vow to offer that amendment again and again, until Congress sends it to the States for ratification.

In addition, we must eliminate all built-in biases toward spending. For example, the "current service baseline" builds in automatic budget increases for inflation and other factors and works like this: If the Democrats want a $1 billion program to grow to $2 billion, they then count an increase to $1.5 billion as a half-billion dollar cut - and the media dutifully reports it as such. This is a deceptive and reprehensible shell game that must be stopped.

A Republican president will fight wasteful spending with the line-item veto which was finally enacted by congressional Republicans this year over bitter Democrat opposition, 120 years after President Grant first proposed it.

Even more important, we will stop the runaway growth of entitlement spending - the programs which automatically grow without any action required by Congress or the President. This spending has jumped 11-fold since 1970 and consumes more than half the federal budget. We will take entitlements off automatic pilot and make Congress accountable for their funding. To end outdated and wasteful programs, we will make the Government Performance and Results Act an integral part of our budget process.

Regulatory Reform

Regulatory reform is needed more than ever. Bill Clinton promised to "reinvent government," but he returned to the old mindset of controls and red tape. To make matters worse, he vetoed a comprehensive regulatory reform bill crafted by Republicans in the House and Senate. That measure will become law when Bob Dole is President.

We commend House Speaker Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans in their innovative efforts to rescind, overturn and zero-out absurd bureaucratic red tape and rules through the process known as "Corrections Day."

A Republican administration will require periodic review of existing regulations to ensure they are effective and do away with obsolete and conflicting rules. We will encourage civil servants to find ways to reduce regulatory burdens on the public and will require federal agencies to disclose the costs of new regulations on individuals and small businesses. A new regulatory budget will reveal the total cost of regulations on the American people.

We will target resources on the most serious risks to health, safety, and the environment, rather than on politically inspired causes, and will require peer-reviewed risk assessments based on sound science. We will require agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses of their regulations and pursue alternatives to the outdated Clinton command-and-control approach. These common-sense reforms will restore fairness and predictability to government rules and, even more important, will enable us to achieve equal or superior levels of protection for the public at lower cost.

Just as important, we recognize that all too often, in its ever-present zeal to expand into every aspect of our daily lives, the federal government intrudes into the private economy by establishing new services in direct competition with already existing private firms. We oppose the use of taxpayer funds to provide a competitive advantage for government agencies seeking to compete with private firms in the free market.

Restoring Justice to the Courts

"When I am president, only conservative judges need apply."
Bob Dole, May 28, 1996, in Aurora, Colorado

The American people have lost faith in their courts, and for good reason. Some members of the federal judiciary threaten the safety, the values, and the freedom of law-abiding citizens. They make up laws and invent new rights as they go along, arrogating to themselves powers King George III never dared to exercise. They free vicious criminals, pamper felons in prison, frivolously overturn State laws enacted by citizen referenda, and abdicate the responsibility of providing meaningful review of administrative decisions.

The delicate balance of power between the respective branches of our national government and the governments of the 50 states has been eroded. The notion of judicial review has in some cases come to resemble judicial supremacy, affecting all segments of public and private endeavor. Make no mistake, the separation of powers doctrine, complete and unabridged, is the linchpin of a government of laws. A Republican Congress and president will restore true separation of powers and guarantee the American people a government of law.

The federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has overstepped its authority under the Constitution. It has usurped the right of citizen legislators and popularly elected executives to make law by declaring duly enacted laws to be "unconstitutional" through the misapplication of the principle of judicial review. Any other role for the judiciary, especially when personal preferences masquerade as interpreting the law, is fundamentally at odds with our system of government in which the people and their representatives decide issues great and small.

No systemic reform of the judiciary can substitute for the wise exercise of power of appointment vested in the president of the United States. A Republican president will ensure that a process is established to select for the federal judiciary nominees who understand that their task is first and foremost to be faithful to the Constitution and to the intent of those who framed it. In that process, the American Bar Association will no longer have the right to meddle in a way that distorts a nominee's credentials and advances the liberal agenda of litigious lawyers and their allies.

Justice is mocked by some of today's litigation practices, which hinder our country's competitiveness, and drain billions of dollars away from productive Americans. While we fully support the role of the judiciary in vindicating the constitutional and statutory rights of individuals and organizations, we believe the proliferation of litigation hits the consumer with higher prices and cripples the practice of medicine. Despite bipartisan congressional efforts to enact legal reforms, Bill Clinton vetoed such legislation at the behest of his financial friends: the trial lawyers. A Republican president will sign that bill, and more. We encourage State governments to adopt reforms similar to those we propose to restore fairness to the federal system:

A federal products liability law goes hand in hand with legal reform. Its absence not only penalizes consumers with higher costs and keeps needed products off the market, but also gives foreign nations a competitive edge over American workers. Bill Clinton doesn't mind that. He vetoed Republican reforms that would have saved the public tens of billions of dollars.

Bill Clinton even vetoed the Securities Litigation Reform Act, a Republican initiative to protect shareholders against avaricious litigation. That obstructionism was too much for even the Democrats in Congress, many of whom joined in overriding his veto. A Republican president will work with Congress to restore justice to the nation's courts and fair play to the practice of law.

The Nation's Capital

The District of Columbia should be an example for the rest of the country. Instead, decades of domination by the Democrat party has left the city bankrupt and dangerous. Its residents - and all Americans - deserve better than that.

We reaffirm the constitutional status of the District of Columbia as the seat of government of the United States and reject calls for statehood for the District.

We call for structural reform of the city's government and its education system. For both efficiency and public safety, we will transfer water and sewer management in the District to the Army Corps of Engineers or to a regional entity.

We endorse proposals by the congressional Republican Leadership for dramatic reductions in federal taxes - and the city's own outrageous marginal tax rate - within the District. Bill Clinton opposes that idea. A Republican president will make it part of a comprehensive agenda to transform the nation's capital into a renewal community, an enterprise zone leading the way for the rest of urban America to follow.

Americans in the Territories

We welcome greater participation in all aspects of the political process by Americans residing in Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and Puerto Rico. No single approach can meet the needs of those diverse communities. We therefore emphasize respect for their wishes regarding their relationship to the rest of the Union. We affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution, with all the rights and responsibilities it entails.

We support the Native American Samoans' efforts to preserve their culture and land-tenure system, which fosters self-reliance and strong extended family values.

We recognize that the people of Guam have voted for a closer relationship with the United States of America, and we affirm our support of their right to mutually improve their political relationship through commonwealth.

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine.

We endorse initiatives of the congressional Republican leadership to provide for Puerto Rico's smooth transition to statehood if its citizens choose to alter their current status, or to set them on their own path to become an independent nation.

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Copyright © 1995, Republican National Committee