Over a century ago, Judge Gideon Tucker first said “no man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.” Those words still ring true today. As the 112th Congress starts Wednesday, we should remain watchful but there is some reason for hope. Immediately after the new Congress gets sworn in, the Constitution will be read on the floor of the House for the first time in the history of America. While this is merely a symbolic gesture, it is encouraging that our Founding document will be in the spotlight where it belongs.
The real test will be whether lawmakers will legislate within the bounds of the Constitution that they will take an oath to support and defend. Fortunately, the Republican House majority is proposing a number of rules to increase transparency and rein in government spending. To help ensure that all members uphold their oath, members would be required to cite specific constitutional authority for any bill that they introduce. As a plank in the Contract FROM America, we hope that this new rule passes with wide support.
These proposed changes to the House rules are a step in the right direction to restore fiscal responsibility and limited government. If these rules are passed, every bill will be made publicly available at least three days before the House or the committee votes on it. Additionally, the rules include a “Cut-As-You-Go” provision that requires that all new spending must be offset with a reduction in spending elsewhere in the budget.
With the rise of the Tea Party movement, more Americans are holding their legislators accountable for their votes. The November election was a huge wake up call. Americans lined up at their voting booths to send their big spending representatives packing out of Washington. The Obama administration has taken notice.
We have a lot to watch out for in 2011. While we should keep a close eye on the new Congress, there is a potentially even greater threat to our liberties. The power of the executive branch is out of control. In article 1, section 7 of the Constitution, the process of creating a new law is outline, putting authority with the legislation. The omnipotent executive branch, however, has disregarded these limits by enacting thousands of new provisions without proper approval from Congress.
We must limit the excesses of executive power by giving the American people and elected officials a voice in all major regulations imposed on us. FreedomWorks continues to support Rep. Geoff Davis’s (R-KY) REINS Act which would require Congress vote on any federal regulation introduced by the executive branch that would impose at least $100 million in compliance costs. During the health care debate, lawmakers removed end-of-life counseling—or death panels— from the Obamacare legislation due to public outcry. But the death panels didn’t stay dead for long. Over the Christmas holiday, the death panels were secretly inserted into the law by faceless bureaucrats at the Health and Human Services. According to the New York Times, “Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life–sustaining treatment.”
Despite Congress’ rejection of some bad policy, the executive branch has enacted it nevertheless. While Cap and Trade remains unpopular with the American people and their legislators, the EPA has already set caps on greenhouse gas emission. According to reports, the Federal Reserve may be preparing for a back-door bailout of profligate states such as California and Illinois without Congressional approval. The IMF is likely getting ready to bailout Portugal and Spain followed by Italy and Belgium. Since American taxpayers pay the largest share of IMF dues, our tax money will be propping up poor economic policies in other countries. Moreover, the United Nations has already developed an Internet Governance Forum in hopes of regulating the Internet globally. Our Congressional representatives will have no say in the matter.
This year, let’s continue to keep close tabs on Congress. But let us also focus our efforts to exposing the excessive powers within the executive branch. Our Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances for a reason. They wanted to prevent one branch of government from infringing on our freedom. In 2011, let’s stand up to government abuses from all divisions of government.