Republicans and certain to capture control of the House of Representatives today, while the battle for the Senate will be close. President Obama’s veto power will remain in effect for another two years, but real and substantial change is clearly coming to Capitol Hill and America. The days of the Democratic super majority are over, and the end of the Speaker Nancy Pelosi/Majority Leader Harry Reid era is an enormous positive step for the American people.
Congress Collapsed Under Speaker Pelosi
The U.S. Senate will no longer be run by series of cloture motion to cut off debate. Under Speaker Pelosi, the House of Representatives has collapsed. For the first time since enactment of the Budget Act in 1974, a budget resolution has not been passed. The House has still not passed one appropriations bill. The 111th Congress is the first in our history to never allow even one bill to be considered under the open amendment process.
There has not been one meeting between the Democratic and Republican leadership in four years. Every effort made by Republicans to seek a compromise was rejected. These things have never happened before, and Republicans are not about to repeat Speaker Pelosi’s tactics when they take power.
Real Debate Will Return and National Priorities Will Finally Be Addressed
Speaker Pelosi took away many minority rights which would have given Republicans a voice in the legislative process. Republicans are not going to do that to the Democrats next year, and that promise is already an integral part of the GOP’s Pledge to America.
Since debate rarely occurred and when it did the time limit was brief, how did Democrats run the House? They devoted a huge amount of time to naming post offices, congratulating sports teams, and celebrating the birthdays of historical figures. That is not going to happen next year. All of these minor matters will now be handled by special orders and one-minute speeches.
The Pledge to America and the Earmark Ban
The Pledge to America is a specific 21 page document which is the Republican Party’s “governing agenda.” Its emphasis is on restoring economic growth, reducing the deficit and reforming government. Considerable media attention has been devoted to an earmark ban. For the past year practically every House Republican has agreed to an earmark spending ban. That ban is certain to be continued now. (Rep. Ron Paul and two other GOP Members want to retain earmarks).
The Next Speaker – Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
House Republican Leader John Boehner is promising a Congress which will provide a clear vision of where the country will be going. That did not happen under Nancy Pelosi or former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who often deferred to the Bush White House. Hastert, a former wrestling coach, viewed his role as reconciling different opinions, and said: “I had a philosophy of leadership. If the coach is in the headlines every day, the team is in trouble. If the team is in the headline everyday, then you’re doing alright.”
Boehner will be far different from Hastert. He will be constructing programs and guiding them to passage. In his “personal vision” address at the American Enterprise Institute last month, Boehner spoke of the reforms he plans to implement. He said “The House finds itself in a state of emergency. The institution does not function, does not deliberate, and seems incapable of acting on the will of the people. From the floor to the committee level, the integrity of the House has been compromised.” Excerpts of his comments are as follows:
I told my constituents in 1990: if you believe it’s important to have a representative who will go to Washington and raid the federal Treasury on your behalf, you should probably vote for someone else. I’ve had a personal ‘no earmarks’ policy since I began serving in Congress, and I always will. I believe it is our obligation to end earmarking as we know it and bring fundamental change to the manner in which Washington spends taxpayers’ money.
Real Reform to Cut The Deficit
I propose today a different approach. Let’s do away with the concept of “comprehensive” spending bills. Let’s break them up, to encourage scrutiny, and make spending cuts easier. Rather than pairing agencies and departments together, let them come to the House floor individually, to be judged on their own merit.
Members shouldn’t have to vote for big spending increases at the Labor Department in order to fund Health and Human Services. Members shouldn’t have to vote for big increases at the Commerce Department just because they support NASA. Each Department and agency should justify itself each year to the full House and Senate, and be judged on its own.
No More Legislative Tricks
Don’t assume I’m singling out the appropriators; I’m not. Over decades, in my view, authorizing committees in the House and Senate have also abdicated their responsibility, often authorizing billions of dollars knowing full well they will never actually be appropriated.
Interest groups then lobby Congress to “fully fund” the program, systematically creating pressure on the legislature to drive up spending. This has to stop. Authorizing Committees should be held to the same standard as the appropriations committee: authorize what we can afford, and hold agencies to account for results.
Ending the Gridlock Cycle – Let The Battle of Ideas Begin:
The more we do to avoid risk and protect our members from tough votes, the more ineffective and polarized the institution becomes. So instead of clamping down even further, it’s my view that we should open things up and let the battle of ideas help break down the scar tissue between the two parties.
Yes, we will still have disagreements. But let’s have them out in the open. Yes, we will still try to outmaneuver each other. But let’s make it a fair fight. Instead of selling our Members short, let’s give them a chance to do their jobs. Let’s let legislators legislate again. . . The battle of ideas–the very lifeblood of the House–is virtually nonexistent. Structure dictates behavior.
More debate and more amendments will mean more intense scrutiny, and ultimately, better legislation. . . The true test is whether our ideas, policies, and values are able to stand the test of a fair debate and a fair vote. And sadly, that’s something we have not seen in the House for some time.
In the Pledge to America we say that the text of all bills should be published online for at least three days before coming up for a vote. No exceptions. No excuses. . . Committee Chairmen should operate with the assumption that their bills are going to be on the floor, and assume that once their bills are on the floor, they’ll be subject to an open rule. If all committee chairmen and ranking members had this mentality, the result would be better legislation, and better legislators. . . We should require all Committee votes to be posted online within 48 hours of being cast.