BRANDON: Freedom Caucus Rules Changes Give Republicans Opportunity To Right The Ship On Capitol Hill
As seen in Daily Caller
If current trends hold, House Republicans are likely to secure their mandate to govern from the American people. Leader Kevin McCarthy, the heir-apparent to the position of Speaker of the House, should therefore welcome the House Freedom Caucus’ rule-change proposals that would bring back regular order to the legislative process. The American people deserve changes that would restore checks and balances, improve transparency, and reassert Congress’ constitutional duty as stewards of the taxpayer.
Leader McCarthy recently introduced his Commitment to America, but if we are to take this as more than a collection of platitudes, he must show that the American people’s elected representatives will determine the agenda rather than establishment leadership and special interests.
Checks and balances are the foundation of our republic, which is why it is imperative that Leader McCarthy work with his caucus to reinstate the “Motion to Vacate the Chair” — a parliamentary check on House leadership that gives any member the right to call for formal vote on the Speaker’s removal. The rank and file need accountability from the Speaker if McCarthy is going to have their votes.
The American people have sadly been denied transparency from federal officials throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Would it be unreasonable for our elected officials to demand transparency from Congressional leadership? Such transparency would require, at a minimum, that any legislation be made available for 72 hours before it is voted on. Representatives must also be allowed to amend any legislation considered on the floor, which the powerful House Rules Committee sometimes prohibits.
Finally, Leader McCarthy must vow to eliminate the ability to automatically suspend the debt ceiling without a standalone vote when the House adopts a budget resolution. Republicans campaigned on fiscal responsibility this past cycle, despite their poor track record in recent years. By putting a stop to the catalyst for reckless spending, a new Republican majority can begin to reclaim Congress’ power of the purse as enshrined in Article I of the Constitution.
Lawmakers are all too often subject to middle of the night “yes or no” votes on massive spending packages drawn up by a select few members of leadership, without the option to offer amendments. This is no way to govern. It undermines the voice of individual members — the American people’s directly elected representatives — on key legislation.
These changes are necessary to prevent House leadership from silencing any form of dissent. One would think that these are common sense reforms that are in line with how we are taught Congress ought to function. Who, then, would oppose such reasonable demands?
The establishments of both parties are opposed to any threat to their iron grip on House rules. So too are their friends on K Street — the entrenched special interests that benefit from legislation made behind closed doors.
It should come as no surprise, then, that anyone who suggests changes to the House status quo is tarred and feathered as a radical extremist. Are we to believe that rules that allow for more open debate on the House floor are truly “extremist?” School House Rock and any AP government course would beg to differ.
With all of the talk of violent rhetoric these days in the media, recall that it was former Speaker Boehner who first labeled the House Freedom Caucus as “legislative terrorists” for threatening his stranglehold on the House’s legislative procedure. Speaker Pelosi has shown herself to be no different and arguably even worse. Afterall, how many real victories have the House Progressives seen in their four years in power, despite their outsized voice on the national political conversation?
A would-be Speaker McCarthy will likely hold a slim governing majority in the House of Representatives. He would do well to offer up these changes to House rules as a gesture of goodwill towards his fellow lawmakers. After all, Republicans have been shut out of the legislative process for two years by single-party rule of Washington. Will this effectively continue now that Leader McCarthy is in charge? Or will he give rank and file lawmakers — and therefore their constituents — a say in the matter once again?
Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks.