WASHINGTON - Democratic leaders unveiled a plan yesterday to link the Republican Party to some of the most extreme elements of the tea party movement, seeking to define all GOP candidates as outside the mainstream by highlighting such tea party talking points as ending Medicare and privatizing Social Security.

With lawmakers preparing to head home to their districts to campaign during the August recess, Democratic leaders sought to demonstrate that all Republicans are cut from the same cloth as such tea party favorites as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul.

Democratic National Committee chairman Timothy Kaine, flanked by a half-dozen House members, released "The Republican Tea Party Contract on America," a 10-point list created by the DNC that Kaine warned would become the Republican agenda if the GOP were to return to power after the November midterm elections.

Among the items are some that are supported by the Republican congressional leadership, such as repealing the health-care overhaul and extending Bush-era tax cuts. But many of the items - including ending Medicare, repealing the 17th Amendment that provides for the direct election of senators, and abolishing the departments of Education and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency - have only been endorsed by select candidates or lawmakers not part of the party leadership.

Still, Kaine made the case that even fringe tea party elements are now part of the GOP mainstream, saying the movement has become "the most potent force in Republican politics."

"The Republican Party agenda has become the tea party agenda and vice versa," Kaine said, pointing to the newly formed Tea Party Caucus that includes some members of the Republican leadership, including Republican Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Pete Sessions of Texas and Republican Caucus chairman Mike Pence of Indiana.

The Republican National Committee responded by calling the plan the "latest attempt to distract voters from the Democrats' failing agenda and falling poll numbers."

- The Washington Post

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