Five Common-Sense Steps to Change a Broken Congress
by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
The American people have had it with “business as usual” in Congress. They are fed up with practices such as tucking special-interest provisions into bills behind closed doors, secretly changing bills without a vote, and passing bills no one has read. This has happened for far too long, but never before has the need for reform been more apparent than in the past year under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her Democratic majority.
Americans are demanding change in the way Congress works. Recognizing this, I and other reform-minded congressional Republicans this week will put forth a new transparency initiative – a series of common-sense congressional reforms aimed at bringing some much-needed openness and accountability to the House.
In just 10 months, with help from the Obama White House, Speaker Pelosi’s Congress has taken business-as-usual to a devastating new extreme. The American people have watched Congress rush through a massive “stimulus” spending bill no one read; a massive $410 billion omnibus spending bill loaded with thousands of un-scrutinized earmarks; and a new “cap and trade” national energy tax loaded with special-interest giveaways unveiled at 3:00 am on the morning before a vote.
Now the White House is pushing for a final year-end bill – which will be written in secret by the majority behind closed doors – to replace the current health care system with government-run care, and transform about one-sixth of our nation’s economy. The bill will be hammered out in a private, partisan House-Senate conference committee with no public access or scrutiny, in direct contradiction of President Obama’s pledge that such talks would be televised on C-SPAN.
These are the actions of a Democratic majority that has forgotten it’s the American people who are really in charge. These are actions designed to shut the American people out while politicians go about the business of limiting their freedom. And in an era of 10.2 percent unemployment, mounting debt, seemingly endless bailouts, and rapidly expanding government, these abuses are the last straw for the American people, who’ve clearly had enough.
Republicans have had enough, too. The House GOP congressional transparency initiative includes common-sense changes such as “read the bill” reform that would require all bills to be posted online for a minimum of 72 hours before they are brought to a vote. We also believe:
- Members’ committee votes should be posted online within 48 hours so the American people can see how their representatives voted.
- Committees should be required to post the text of adopted bills online within 24 hours of adoption to end the practice of “phantom amendments” being added to bills secretly after they pass at the committee level.
- Major negotiations on sweeping bills that would dramatically expand the reach of the federal government – such as the current government takeover of health care – should be open to the public and subject to a full and honest debate when bills reach the floor.
- Cameras should be allowed in the secretive House Rules Committee, the panel that decides which bills and amendments come to a vote.
Did Republicans miss an opportunity to enact common-sense changes like these when we were in the majority? Yes — and we won’t make the mistake again. With this initiative, we’re taking some common-sense steps to renew the drive for an open and accountable Congress. We recognize restoring the bonds of trust between the American people and their elected leaders starts with changing Congress itself. We hope Speaker Pelosi will join us, and allow these common-sense reforms to go forward.