The 115th Congress has the potential to do great things for our nation. Working with the next President, we can enact policies that will create jobs and limit government. To get the right policies, however, we have to improve the process. The Framers of our Constitution wisely designed a system that divided the legislative, executive, and judicial powers among three branches. James Madison explained that each branch would “be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.”
Unfortunately, Congress has not always done so. While Article I of the Constitution grants it “all legislative Powers,” Congress in the past has given the executive branch sweeping lawmaking authority. Whether to avoid tough votes or out of deference to a president of the same political party, Members of Congress chose to cede the power the Constitution conferred on them.
Barack Obama did not create the imbalance between Congress and the President, but he took it to a new level. His Administration issued scores of directives that stepped on Congress’ rightful authority, even directly contradicting the plain text of enacted laws. Congressional Democrats enabled his abuses because they agreed with the Administration’s goals.
With Donald Trump in the Oval Office, congressional Republicans must remember to exercise our Article I powers and not be a lapdog to the executive branch. If we do so, even if their reasons are political, congressional Democrats may rediscover the powers Article I gives Congress. I believe this would be healthy for our system overall. The Constitution’s checks and balances depend on each branch guarding its turf from the encroachments of the other two.
Fortunately, Donald Trump has indicated that he will respect Congress’ proper authority far more than the Obama Administration did. With his help, we can restore balance among the branches.
Congress must reclaim its authority from the executive branch, but it must also look for ways to improve the lawmaking process. This is best done by looking at the rules of each House. I have worked for several years on this effort, and I am pleased to report progress. When the House convenes for this Congress, it is expected to adopt a rules package that includes two significant improvements I have long advocated.
The first involves spending authorization. Each dollar spent should be authorized by current law, but in too many cases, Congress has allowed the Treasury to continue funding programs whose authorizations have lapsed. Billions of dollars are being spent on autopilot, without any consideration of their effectiveness or their legality.
The proposed rules for the 115th Congress require House committees to list programs under their jurisdiction that are unauthorized but still received funding in the past fiscal year. With this information in hand, committees must develop a plan which hopefully will lead to cutting unnecessary, duplicative, or unconstitutional spending over time.
The second improvement is the provisional reintroduction of the “Holman Rule.” I have led the effort to reinstate this rule. It was a feature of the House rules until 1983, when Democratic leaders axed it to weaken President Reagan’s congressional allies. Reinstating the Holman Rule will let Members offer amendments to appropriations bills that cut how much they spend or reduce the number and compensation of federal employees. Both of these changes enhance the House’s ability to exercise its “power of the purse.” A Congress that does its job better without outsourcing its job to the President will deliver better results for the American people.
Israel; Better Process Means Better Policy
Recently, President Obama oversaw the failure of the United States to veto a United Nations resolution against Israel. John Kerry then gave a speech lasting more than an hour blasting Israel regarding peace talks with the Palestinians. It is my opinion this was wrong. It is hard to reach a peace accord recognizing a new nation-state (Palestine) when the Palestinians and many of their Arab supporters refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist. If your neighbor refused to accept your right to exist on your land and in fact openly stated they would like to see your death and destruction, that would make it hard to negotiate a peace and to not be aggressive in the defense of your land and your people.
I am honored to begin a new term as Representative for the Ninth District. With an improved process in the House, and if the Senate will also improve its process, I believe we can begin to do great things for America. If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.