“The value of a majority lies not in the chance to wield great power, but in the chance to use limited power to do great things.” – John Boehner (R-OH-08) Remarks on the House Floor, January 4, 2007
As the 2010 election season was coming to an end, Mr. Boehner introduced his “Pillars of a New Majority”. In it Mr. Boehner made some interesting observations :
Leaders overreach because the rules allow them to.
Legislators duck their responsibilities because the rules help them to. And when the rules don’t suit the majority’s purposes, they are just ignored.
Without transparency, lawmakers cannot hold each other accountable, and the American people cannot hold us to account.
That’s why 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.
But this lack of transparency speaks to a larger problem where the Speaker’s office has the capacity to unilaterally draft a bill and send it straight through to the Rules Committee.
Because the truth is, much of the work of committees has been co-opted by the leadership. In too many instances, we no longer have legislators; we just have voters. In my view, if we want to make legislators legislate again, then we need to empower them at the committee level.
When the Republicans took charge of the House, new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-07) introduced a rules package that covers scheduling (how many days worked, when votes can and cannot occur), the terms and conditions for debating bills (all bills will cite their constitutional authority and be posted online for 72 hours before a vote).
Well …. the Pillars are crumbling … forget getting committees involved, forget the online posting for three days, Let’s Just Vote.
Heck, ignore the Constitution, Let’s Just Vote.
Case In Point : HR 1255 “Government Shutdown Prevention Act”
The bill was introduced on March 30, 2011, by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR-03) and referred to the Committee on Appropriations, as well as the committees on Oversight and Government Reform, House Administration, and Budget.
On April 1st after the morning prayer, Pledge of Allegiance and a few speeches, at 9:15 AM, the first order of business was from Mr. Woodall who moved to consider the resolution.. In case you were wondering, HR 1255 never got a hearing in the assigned committees … just a quick review by the Rules Committee where the most powerful woman in the House pushed it through.
HR 1255 may be called the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” but it’s real intention is to “Deem and Pass” HR 1 -Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 if the Senate does not act by April 6th … remember when “Deem and Pass” brought such anger when it was discussed during the Healthcare Reform debate which John Kline (R-MN-02) remarked “It’s incredible to even think about it.”
… well, it’s a new Majority … no worry but heck, that’s the way the Republicans managed the House when they were in the Majority in 2006 when Mr. Kline voted for “Deem and Pass” legislation.
While the Senate has held two parliamentarian votes on HR 1, they have not formally acted on it. Obviously, that creates a constitutional question … remember Joe Wilson (R-SC-02) reading Art. I, section 7, clause 2 when the new Congress started ?
“Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States. If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated who shall enter the objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.”
So much for the adhering to the Constitution … and the question of the constitutionality of Mr. Womack’s legislation was the source of much of the debate that followed … including by Republican Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01) : “We’re here because the Democratic majority last year did not do their job, did not give us a budget, did not due proper appropriations, and now the Senate has had the same problem. So I applaud anybody’s efforts in trying to move the ball down the road so that we can appropriate. I just wish the Senate would do their job now and take care of it. But for a bill to say provisions that pass the House are hereby enacted into law violates my conscience and the Constitution. I cannot vote for it.”
Mr. Gohmert was true to his word and voted against it … but Mr. Cantor and Mr. Kline voted to approve it.
The Pillars are crumbling upon those that established them.
Mr. Boehner, Cantor and Kline are experienced legislators … they implied things were going to be different …. but instead they allowed a freshman Representative to promote faulty legislation that even the GOP statement on the bill says as much “As with any law, the provisions of H.R. 1255 would only take effect if the bill were approved by the Senate and signed by the president.”
What a waste of precious time that could otherwise be used to negotiate with the Senate and White House in an effort to keep Government operating.