House Republicans should be commended for offering an alternative vision for America’s future, in their Pledge to America. It is an important element in moving America in the right direction. Conservatives must present ideas to America that are consistent with our nation’s founding principles and empower people, not government.

The Pledge rightly frames the argument to be about the choices we face going forward and the need to return to core first principles, about the role of the state, popular consent and self-government.

The most important constitutional reform a new Congress can make is to cut spending significantly and reduce the overall size and scope of today’s unlimited government. That includes particularly the repeal of Obama’s health care overhaul, the largest assault on the Constitution in our lifetimes. The Pledge addresses these important subjects.

Free enterprise is vital, so it was pleasing to see the promises to stop all job-killing tax hikes and to rein in red tape. Limited government is likewise imperative, so the immediate hundred-billion dollar cut, lower taxes, and spending caps are a welcome start toward the goal of shrinking government. And individual freedom is a fundamental value of our nation, which reducing reporting to the IRS and repeal of Obamacare will advance.

Once Obamacare is repealed, the reform process can begin anew. That process to replace ObamaCare with a superior set of reforms must be more open and transparent than the process that led to it in the first place. This means extensive oversight and hearings to highlight the shortcomings of the ObamaCare and explore alternatives; committee level markups which permit lawmakers to consider and vote on numerous amendments; and a wide open floor debate that maximizes the ability of rank and file members to air their reform ideas and secure floor votes on them.

Other spending cuts in the Pledge designed to put us “on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt,” including the return of unused TARP funds to the Treasury and the proposal to end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should also be equally well received.

The Pledge’s approach to entitlement reform of “preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities” is reason for optimism. Especially, if this means the total amount of unfunded liability is capped at current levels. It may mean, however, that there will be no further additions to the baseline. In any event, their proposals follow Heritage recommendations very closely with respect to requiring a full accounting of the entitlement programs in the budget.

The Pledge makes essential commitments to protecting and defending our nation and our interests and reinvigorating Reagan’s successful doctrine of peace through strength.  One of the most important parts of the Pledge is the recognition that providing for the common defense is government’s fundamental obligation. Protecting us is job #1, and it will require vigilance, more purposeful investment in the tools of national power, and education.

The Pledge’s priorities recognize the world as it is — that the threat of nuclear ballistic missile attack is grave and that missile defense must be a national priority; that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable; that the long war on terrorism is far from over; and that our broken borders and flawed immigration and workplace enforcement strategies are unacceptable.

Singling out of missile defense is particularly vital. The Obama Administration not only has scaled back missile defense programs and abandoned our commitments to comprehensive missile defense, it also concluded a New START nuclear agreement with Moscow that could prevent future presidents from building comprehensive missile defenses. Scrutinizing this treaty, which currently rests with the Senate for approval, and reenergizing our missile defense programs must be a priority for the Congress.

Most important, the Pledge recognizes that playing politics with national security is unacceptable. Defense legislation should focus on defense. In order to give the men and women who protect us what they need to do their jobs, we need robust defense budgets that pay for current operations, maintain readiness, and prepare for the future.

The Pledge points out that it’s time to stop playing politics with terrorist detention and interrogation policy. The Administration’s policies have been marked by posturing and pandering rather than striving to develop and implement effective policies that keep us safe, keep captured terrorists off the battlefield, and get the information we need to stop terrorist attacks before they occur.  It is past time for the Congress to act on this vital issue.

The Pledge to America rightly focuses on making real changes now. Lawmakers now have an opportunity to act constitutionally, restoring limited government and making real and serious spending reductions and program reforms.

Congress will change its ways and look to its constitutional role and obligations: legislation will be available before votes; it will be easier to cut spending and legislative issues will advance one issue at a time.  Most significantly, each piece of legislation will need to cite its source of constitutional authority, an important step in getting Congress back to operating within its grant of constitutional powers.

More, of course, will need to be done. The Heritage Foundation has its own package of policy recommendations.  It is called Solutions for America, and it a bold and comprehensive blueprint for governing for the next Congress. It’s designed to replace the failed policies of the liberal establishment with solid conservative solutions that will shrink government, reduce debt, keep taxes low and put Americans back to work and keep us safe. Both the Republican Pledge and our Solutions for America should be seen as important steps in a debate that is finally heading in the right direction. However, action will speak louder than words.