As a newly elected Republican member of Congress, I had high hopes that the Democrats were serious about using their newly found majority power to do business in a way that did credit to the American people. Though I knew I would not necessarily agree with or like the outcome of every piece of legislation, I hoped we could be proud at least of the manner in which we carried out the awesome task of setting national policy.
After the November election, Democrats began discussing their plans. I heard incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) stating, “We will restore civility and bipartisanship to the democratic process and restore integrity and honesty to Congress.” A spokesman for her said, “Under a Democratic process, there will be a more deliberative body and members will know what they are voting on.”
Yet on my first day in office, we learned that the notorious “100 Hours Agenda” was the beginning of the end for deliberation, transparency and bipartisanship. In the first two weeks of the 110th Congress, the Democratic leadership rammed six major bills through the House of Representatives under a closed rule that did not allow any committee consideration or a single amendment to be offered.
These were not minor pieces of legislation, either. These were bills that would modify energy policy, lead to the government’s setting prices for prescription drugs, alter our homeland security process, allow federal tax dollars to be used to experiment on and destroy human embryos, and mandate a raise in the federal minimum wage. All of these issues are critically important and deserve a full and open legislative process. To talk about openness and deliberation but then turn around and do the opposite is pure hypocrisy.
Contrast that record with the process that occurred 12 years ago when the Republicans took control of Congress. They came into power largely because of the “Contract With America” that helped them take over Congress after 40 years of Democratic rule. During the debate over the 24 bills that made up the contract, Democrats were allowed to offer 154 amendments — 45 amendments passed and became part of the final bills.
While all of this may strike some as “inside the beltway” and inconsequential, it illustrates the deeper systemic problems facing our nation under Democratic rule. For the Democrats to shut nearly half of the entire House of Representatives out of the legislative process means that they consider the beliefs of the red half of the nation as not worthy of consideration. This is arrogance in the extreme.
These actions also demonstrate the new majority’s lack of respect for the democratic process. Enacting legislation that actually works for the American people requires thoughtfulness and dialogue, so all options are on the table. To reject that just because a numerical majority is available does a tremendous disservice to the American people.
One need only look to the recent move by the Democrats to give delegates of the U.S. Territories voting rights to see how little respect they have for the Constitution. In a highly contentious maneuver, Democrats gave delegates from six territories the right to vote in all committees, including on the floor of the House. However, the Constitution clearly says House members must be elected by “the people of the various states.”
Democrats tried to justify this clearly unconstitutional action by claiming that the votes of territories’ delegates would not be counted if they swing the balance in a close vote. What it will do, though, is give cover to vulnerable Democrats, including those who ran on Republican values in Republican districts. Those politicians can point to the artificially enhanced vote total and tell the folks back home that their vote for a liberal issue was not the deciding one.
Hollow and Broken Promises
In an assault on the taxpayer, Democrats in the opening days eviscerated a Republican House rule that required a supermajority vote before taxes could be raised. When promises are dishonored, when hypocrisy is rampant, when democratic debate is ignored, when power becomes an end in itself, and when the Constitution is ignored for the sake of partisan gain, it becomes clear that we are in for a long two years.
Fortunately, as Abraham Lincoln said, you cannot fool all the people all the time. The seeds that are sewn from a flawed and illegitimate process in the people’s House cannot produce lasting and wholesome fruit. Sooner or later the American people will see that the hollow and broken promises of transparency and bipartisanship betray a deeper disrespect by the Democrats for democracy and for the Constitution itself.