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The House of Representatives is supposed to be for the people by design. It has shorter elections and smaller constituencies because its members are meant to be closer to the interests of the American people. For Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, the people have been shut out both literally and symbolically. The things Congress does matter, but so does how it does them. When it comes to making laws for a republic of hundreds of millions of people, how representatives do things matters a great deal, and it’s time for Congress to get serious and do them the right way.
On the literal front, Congress is still surrounded by fences, patrolled by National Guard members and closed off to constituents. Inside, Pelosi is forcing lawmakers to walk through metal detectors on their way to the House floor to vote. This is political theater driven by false narratives propagated by the corporate media and treated as gospel by opportunistic politicians. The result is that a cherished symbol of representative government is now completely off limits to the people its members represent.
While it is far less noticeable than the brutal image of unnecessary fencing around the Capitol dome, the symbolic disregard for the American people is more pervasive and carries more effects. Despite only holding her majority by five votes, Pelosi rules the House with an iron fist, snuffing out deliberation and debate at every turn to force her radical agenda through. From the federal election takeover bill to another $2 trillion in supposed coronavirus relief, she is jamming bill after radical bill through a dictatorial legislative process that runs roughshod over the rights of the minority party and the rights of their constituents to be represented in Congress.
House Democrats have sidelined Republicans in the legislative process. Bills comprising their radical agenda continue to arrive on the floor with no committee hearings, no committee markups to debate and shape legislation, and no real amendments allowed on the floor. The only amendments allowed are preselected for show by a committee of nine Democrats and four Republicans.
The lack of ability to debate and amend lies at the core of our spending dysfunction. Both sides retreat to their corners and seek their spending priorities, but never have to give and take. It would be like a business deciding to invest in every capital investment, staff increase, or research and development cost without ever making tough choices year to year. It would never work.
If it sounds like most House members have become little more than spectators in this process, it is because they are. Yet Democrats now dare to complain that Republicans are using the rules of the House to raise legitimate objections to legislation or merely requesting that members of Congress record their votes.
Adding insult to the farce, House Democrats have also continued their unconstitutional proxy voting scheme as a response to the coronavirus. In order to do so under the rule, they claim they are “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency,” even if they are present in Washington. And, unfortunately, some Republicans have joined in the abuse of this protocol. All of them are getting away with this even though roughly 75 percent of members of Congress, and a substantial amount of Capitol Hill staff, are now vaccinated. Reasonable minds would argue that it's time to show up for work again.
It is not enough to diagnose and decry what is broken. Congress has a duty to fix it by whatever means it has at its disposal. Republicans make up more than 48 percent of the House, yet they have been locked out of the process of legislating. Refusing to fight back is not an option. Sitting on the sidelines while flying to Washington each week to do nothing more than push a red or green button is unacceptable.
One of the last remaining means Republicans have been left with is the ability to use the rules of the House to force members of Congress to do the jobs they were elected to do: cast recorded vote after recorded vote. Some have complained that demanding votes on suspension bills messes up schedules and obstructs bipartisan legislation. This view misses the reality that the entire process is already broken. But Republicans can fix it again if, by using the rules, they can bring Democrats to the negotiating table and restore regular order in the House of Representatives.
Chip Roy serves in Congress as a Republican representative from Texas. Cesar Ybarra is a senior director of legislative affairs at FreedomWorks.