Holding Washington's Feet To The Fire

What can we expect from the 112th Congress? The new political leaders were elected on some bold promises. The Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate have promised to swear off earmarks, and House Republicans put out a Pledge to America containing a list of promises for the next two years. Conservatives must remind politicians of these promises over and over again.

Speaker Boehner???s Promise

New Speaker of the House John Boehner (R.-Ohio) promised to change the way the House does business in his opening speech on January 5: ???Our aim will be to give government back to the people. In seeking this goal, we will part with some of the rituals that have come to characterize this institution under majorities Republican and Democratic alike. We will dispense with the conventional wisdom that bigger bills are always better; that fast legislating is good legislating; that allowing additional amendments and open debate makes the legislative process ???less efficient??? than our forefathers intended. These misconceptions have been the basis for the rituals of modern Washington. The American people have not been well served by them.???

Conservatives want small bills because during the rule of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) Congress passed massive measures that forced individuals to purchase government-approved healthcare plans, set up a new regulatory agency for business and to attack global warming.

Pelosi frequently went around the committee process to railroad bills through the House swiftly. Quick action prevented the American people from participating in the legislative process. Furthermore, Pelosi did not allow Republican amendments and an open debate on legislation. Conservatives hope that the process for passing bills becomes more transparent and allows all 435 members to participate significantly in the legislative process.

Repeal ObamaCare

One of the promises from the new House leadership is to repeal ObamaCare. H.R. 2 would completely repeal the two pieces of legislation establishing President Obama???s plan to take over the administration of private health insurance. This week the House will vote on the repeal measure, then it will go to the Senate (where there is little chance that it will pass this year).

In addition to pushing for complete repeal, Congress needs to take a piecemeal approach to dismantling ObamaCare. The first strategy should be to defund unpopular elements of the bill. Congress should defund all of the new bureaucracies set up by ObamaCare. Members need to defund the propaganda campaign that the administration has used to sell the program. The Obama Administration wasted $18 million on one mailing last year in an effort to re-educate seniors about the healthcare reform bill. They should defund implementation of the mandates in the law that increase costs for the average American.

The second strategy to dismantle ObamaCare is to attack the unpopular individual mandate. Congress needs to debate a measure to strike the unconstitutional individual mandate from the books. Congress may want to defund efforts by the administration to take this issue to the courts.

The federal government does not have the power to mandate that individuals purchase government-approved health insurance and the Justice Department should not be allowed to spend your tax dollars to argue in court that this provision complies with the Constitution. The American people want to see ObamaCare wiped off the books and it may take a multi-pronged strategy to chip away at elements of the bill to force Congress to repeal the whole measure.

???Filibuster Reform??? Still Pending

Last week, the Senate began debate on so called ???Filibuster Reform.??? Liberals in the Senate are using a wrong-headed theory to push this effort???something called the ???Constitutional Option.??? This is merely a procedural trick.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D.-Ore.), Tom Udall (D.-N.M.) and Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa) are promoting a rules change that will chip away at the filibuster rules. They claim that in the first day of business in the Senate, the Senate can ignore two explicit rules of Senate procedure. Senate Rule 5 states that the Senate is a ???continuing body??? that operates from Congress to Congress. Rule 22 requires a two-thirds vote to shut down debate on a rules change. But the Democratic senators say they can do it with a simple majority by claiming that the filibuster is unconstitutional.

The filibuster is constitutional and authorized by Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution. Maybe they should have listened last week when members of Congress read the Constitution aloud in the House chamber.