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PD Editorial: The best pledge: Keep an open mind

  • Rep. Jared Huffman refused to sign a pledge to oppose changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

On the first day of the congressional session in January, senators and representatives recited this pledge:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

That's the one and only pledge they ought to take with regard to serving in Congress.

Yet it's become increasingly common for myriad special interests to pressure candidates and even elected officials to swear allegiance to their particular cause, to demand that they commit their votes regardless of what facts and circumstances may surface later.

Best known is the no-new-taxes pledge championed by Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist that has needlessly complicated budget and debt-reduction talks in Washington for years. On this page, we also have criticized a pledge proffered each election cycle to candidates seeking the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union, which represents thousands of public employees.

There's a new pledge making the rounds. Drafted by Reps. Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, it calls on fellow House members to promise to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

There's a special effort to get commitments from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Among them is the North Coast's new congressman, Democrat Jared Huffman of San Rafael. He is one of 49 who haven't signed. “I won't be bullied from the left or the right into signing Norquistian vote pledges to outside groups,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

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