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National Grange Blog: Who Makes the Rules Anyway?

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Blog (1/4/11)

  JANUARY 6, 2011 --

Humble and subservient are never the adjectives used to describe Congress and its members, at least not anymore. Once upon a time, men like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson sat down to draft a document purposely inflicting rules and restrictions on the government yet to be established. In fact, limitations on government are precisely the foundation of democracy. Unfortunately, as time went on, government somehow obtained more power and the opinion of the public slowly became less influential. This is a problem of unspeakable proportions. After all, when the opinions of the governed mean nothing to the government, that’s called socialism. Until November 2nd of last year (last year sounds so long ago doesn’t it?) the American public was headed in that very direction. However, there is a new light at the end of this dreary tunnel, and it will soon shed itself on the 112th Congress. 

The day Congress elects John Boehner to Speaker of the House, members will ultimately have to agree upon House Resolution 5; the package containing the rules by which they will abide. Imagine that- Congress establishing rules for itself. Yet, the new rules package, if agreed upon and properly implemented, could dramatically change the way Washington conducts its business. Included in the provisions are numerous restrictions that would help to restore economic responsibility, transparency, and a less intrusive government; founding principles much needed to rebuild the health and prosperity of our nation. 

One such measure would require that all committee votes be made available online and reports be drafted more frequently regarding committee activities. Consequently, numerous committees will be under new chairmanships, bringing new ideas to an area of politics long plagued with bureaucracy and standstill. Just to name a few, Paul Ryan of the Budget Committee, Dave Camp of Ways and Means, Fred Upton of Energy and Commerce, and Spencer Bachus of Financial Services will all be new to their roles as chairmen. Another measure related to committees, and a rather victorious one, would be the reinstatement of term limits for chairmen. This would help prevent the often abused powers that come from the same men holding the same positions for years and years. 

Moving on, other provisions contained in House Res. 5 include a rule that all bills be made available online for at least 72 hours before they are voted on. As common sense as this seems, it has been a frequent occurrence for 500-page bills to be filed only hours before the issue is to be heard on the floor. In fact, had this restriction been in place the whole time, the Healthcare Bill would easily been ruled out of order. Further, any entitlement increasing deficit spending by $5 billion or more in a 10-year period would be banned. And finally, the package also allows for highway spending to be reduced should the revenues on the gasoline tax begin to decline. 

All of the aforementioned rules, and several others, will help to bring about a new and productive political environment in the District of Columbia. For too long legislators have taken liberties without consent of the public, and the mess in which we’ve found ourselves is the end result of such practices. Not anymore. And although I’m hesitant to become too optimistic about the future of government, the measures already taken by the 112th Congress are at least a giant step in the right direction. Hopefully, Congress will get the message sent by the public in November and continue their efforts on this most beneficial and constructive path. 


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