House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to re-write House rules today to ensure that the Republican minority is unable to have any influence on legislation. Pelosi’s proposals are so draconian, and will so polarize the Capitol, that any thought President-elect Obama has of bipartisan cooperation will be rendered impossible before he even takes office.
Pelosi’s rule changes — which may be voted on today — will reverse the fairness rules that were written around Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.”
In reaction, the House Republican leadership is sending a letter today to Pelosi to object to changes to House Rules this week that would bar Republicans from offering alternative bills, amendments to Democrat bills or even the guarantee of open debate accessible by motions to recommit for any piece of legislation during the entire 111th Congress. These procedural abuses, as outlined in the below letter obtained by HUMAN EVENTS, would also include the repeal of six-year limit for committee chairmen and other House Rules reform measures enacted in 1995 as part of the Contract with America.
After decades of Democrat control of the House of Representatives, gross abuses to the legislative process and several high-profile scandals contributed to an overwhelming Republican House Congressional landslide victory in 1994. Reforms to the House Rules as part of the Contract with America were designed to open up to public scrutiny what had become under this decades-long Democrat majority a dangerously secretive House legislative process. The Republican reform of the way the House did business included opening committee meetings to the public and media, making Congress actually subject to federal law, term limits for committee chairmen ending decades-long committee fiefdoms, truth in budgeting, elimination of the committee proxy vote, authorization of a House audit, specific requirements for blanket rules waivers, and guarantees to the then-Democrat minority party to offer amendments to pieces of legislation.
Pelosi’s proposed repeal of decades-long House accountability reforms exposes a tyrannical Democrat leadership poised to assemble legislation in secret, then goose-step it through Congress by the elimination of debate and amendment procedures as part of America’s governing legislative process.
Below is the text of the letter on which the House Republican leadership has signed off.
January 5, 2009
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Madame Speaker,
We hope you and your family had a joyful holiday season, and as we begin a new year and a new Congress, we look forward to working with you, our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and President-elect Obama in tackling the many challenges facing our nation.
President Obama has pledged to lead a government that is open and transparent. With that in mind, we are deeply troubled by media reports indicating that the Democratic leadership is poised to repeal reforms put in place in 1995 that were intended to help restore Americans’ trust and confidence in the People’s House. Specifically, these reports note that the Majority, as part of its rules package governing the new Congress, will end six-year term limits for Committee chairs and further restrict the opportunity for all members to offer alternative legislation. This does not represent change; it is reverting back to the undemocratic one-party rule and backroom deals that the American people rejected more than a decade ago. And it has grave implications for the American people and their freedom, coming at a time when an unprecedented expansion of federal power and spending is being hastily planned by a single party behind closed doors. Republicans will vigorously oppose repealing these reforms if they are brought to a vote on the House floor.
As you know, after Republicans gained the majority in the House in 1995, our chamber adopted rules to limit the terms of all committee chairs to three terms in order to reward new ideas, innovation, and merit rather than the strict longevity that determined chairmanships in the past. This reform was intended to help restore the faith and trust of the American people in their government – a theme central to President-elect Obama’s campaign last year. He promoted a message of “change,” but Madame Speaker, abolishing term limit reform is the opposite of “change.” Instead, it will entrench a handful of Members of the House in positions of permanent power, with little regard for its impact on the American people.
The American people also stand to pay a price if the Majority further shuts down free and open debate on the House floor by refusing to allow all members the opportunity to offer substantive alternatives to important legislation — the same opportunities that Republicans guaranteed to Democrats as motions to recommit during their 12 years in the Minority. The Majority’s record in the last Congress was the worst in history when it came to having a free and open debate on the issues.
This proposed change also would prevent Members from exposing and offering proposals to eliminate tax increases hidden by the Democratic Majority in larger pieces of legislation. This is not the kind of openness and transparency that President-elect Obama promised. This change would deprive tens of millions of Americans the opportunity to have a voice in the most important policy decisions facing our country.
Madame Speaker, we urge you to reconsider the decision to repeal these reforms, which could come up for a vote as early as tomorrow. Just as a new year brings fresh feelings of optimism and renewal for the American people, so too should a new Congress. Changing the House rules in the manner highlighted by recent media reports would have the opposite effect: further breaching the trust between our nation’s elected representatives and the men and women who send them to Washington to serve their interests and protect their freedom.
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republican Leader
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Republican Whip
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Conference Chairman
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Policy Committee Chairman
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wyo.), Conference Vice-Chair
Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), Conference Secretary
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), NRCC Chairman
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Chief Deputy Whip
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), Rules Committee Ranking Republican
(Click here for a pdf copy of the letter with signatures.)