Last fall, House Republicans unveiled their Pledge to America, promising to provide transparency by restoring “regular order” and addressing major legislative items one issue at a time.
A year later, it’s clear that the GOP has fallen short on their promises:
“Almost all important pieces of legislation passed by the 112th Congress emerged not from the traditional process of committee members debating and marking up bills, but from backroom negotiations among party leaders.”
“Each time, negotiations ended with bills drafted on the fly and introduced just before voting, leaving lawmakers scant time to read the details before deciding. That’s exactly opposite of ‘regular order,’ which House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promised to restore once Republicans took control of the House earlier this year.”
“‘We need to stop writing bills in the speaker’s office and let members of Congress be legislators again,’ Boehner said late last year, shortly before the midterm elections that swept the GOP to power in the House… ‘We were each elected to uphold the Constitution and represent 600,000-odd people in our districts,’ Boehner added. ‘We need to open this place up, let some air in. We have nothing to fear from letting the House work its will — nothing to fear from the battle of ideas. That starts with the committees. The result will be more scrutiny and better legislation.’”
“In September 2010, Republicans took over a hardware store in Sterling, Va., to unveil their ‘Pledge to America’ It was their mission statement for what would soon be a new GOP House majority, and it became a campaign pillar for many of this Congress’s freshman class… it also vowed: ‘We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with ‘must-pass’ legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time.’”
“This has not happened…Republicans bundled the extension with legislation to accelerate approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and to block regulations of toxic air emissions from industrial boilers. Likewise, drafts of appropriations bills are filled with riders and other provisions to do everything from cripple President Obama’s health care bill to defund National Public Radio.”
“Last year, the tea party influence was crucial in abolishing earmarks, the process of adding sweeteners to spending bills to get lawmakers to sign on. If what’s happening now seems eerily similar to earmarking, that’s because it is. ‘There’s a distinction without a difference,’ said Steve Bell, the former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee and a self-identified Republican at the Bipartisan Policy Center. ‘A rider is technically not an earmark, but the principle behind the two is precisely the same.’”