WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman David Dreier (R-CA), House Rules Committee Chairman-designate, delivered the following statement today as he managed debate of the opening day Rules package for the 112th Congress:
“Today marks an important turning point for the House of Representatives. We have before us a package of reforms that will bring greater transparency and accountability to this House, and that will once again give the American people a voice in the legislative process. They have made clear to us what their priorities are – job creation, economic growth, and a smaller, more accountable federal government. The reforms included in this rules package are designed to ensure that those priorities are met and that we are held responsible for our actions as we do the people’s work.
“I want to thank each of my colleagues who worked so tirelessly on this Rules package. I particularly want to thank my good friends Greg Walden, who led our transition team, and Rob Bishop, who led the rules reform effort, as well as the other Members of the transition team. I’d also like to express my gratitude to Rob Andrews and Bob Brady, my friends on the other side of the aisle, who worked hard as Democratic liaisons to our transition team.
“As we looked for ways to chart a new course and reduce Congressional waste, we knew that we had to consider good ideas from both parties. Our Democratic liaisons were tremendous partners in this effort, and I thank them for all their hard work.
“Having completed our transition effort, we are now on the threshold of a new Congress. Each of us faces this new beginning with the knowledge that Congressional approval ratings are abysmally low. It is rare that the Congress is held in high esteem by the American people, but it is rarer still that their regard is as low as it is right now. Why has this body become so unpopular? Because the American people felt they were not being listened to. They have sent us here to conduct the 112th Congress differently than any Congress before it. What’s more, they have given us some pretty simple marching orders – fulfill our constitutional duties in an open and transparent way. This rules package gives us the tools we need to do just that.
“Because our highest priorities are job creation and economic growth, we must reign in the government spending that has spiraled out of control over the past four years. We are taking several steps to meet that goal. For starters we are requiring that any new spending be off-set for five ten-year budget windows. If a bill increases the deficit by more than $5 billion in any of those ten-year windows, it will be subject to a point of order.
“In other words, we are changing the rules of the House to ensure that we look at the short-, medium-, and long-term consequences of federal spending. We should not and cannot consider legislation that pushes the federal budget further into insolvency. We will also be reforming the spending process by replacing ‘pay-go’ with ‘cut-go’. Rather than pairing spending with tax increases, we will pair it with spending cuts. It’s often been said that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. These new rules will make it easier to reduce spending rather than increase it.
“We are also taking important steps to make us more accountable to the people we represent. We won’t be voting on bills unless they’ve been available for at least three calendar days. We will be returning much of the legislative work back to the committees, where greater transparency will also be required. The work product, the recorded votes, and the video archives of all committees are required by these rules to be posted online. No longer will massive legislation be written behind closed doors and rammed through the House before anyone has the chance to review or amend the text. Our work will be done in an open way that affords all Members the opportunity to participate and scrutinize.
“Another key reform made by this rules package is the creation of an ‘electronic format’ for legislation. This represents a dramatic change in how legislation is made available, not just to members, but to the public and the press as well. For the last two centuries, legislation was considered “available” when a paper copy was dropped off in the document room across the street.
“Now, it will be considered ‘available’ when anyone with access to the internet can look it up. This new format will evolve over time, and there is work ahead on this and other rules changes.
“No member should consider this vote as the end of the reform efforts of this Congress. They will continue as long as the 112th Congress is open for business. We will not be wed to the way we used to do things. Rather, we will be looking for new and different ways to do our jobs and do them in the most transparent and accountable way possible.
“But this rules package is a very significant first step. We’ve learned the hard way that bad process inevitably results in bad outcomes. We need look no further than our ailing economy and spiraling deficit, not to mention Congress’s abysmal approval ratings, to see that’s true. By reforming the rules of the House, we set the stage for reforming the entire federal government. Ultimately, we ensure fidelity to the original rules document – the Constitution.
“Our founders understood better than anyone the importance of restraining federal power. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.’
“In the coming Congress, we will refocus our efforts on fulfilling our Constitutional duties in a transparent and responsible way. We will be reform minded and accountability oriented. And we will be driven by the number one concern of the American people – getting our economy back on track. Form dictates function, and these new rules will set us on the path toward greater economic growth and confidence for the American people.”
For Immediate Release: January 5, 2011
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