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  • Morning Bell: Returning the People's House to the People

    “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in March. No single statement better epitomizes everything that is wrong with how Congress works. While Speaker Pelosi was referring to Obamacare at the time, she could have been referring to any of the thousand-plus page bills Congress passed this year. This was not how the Framers intended Congress to be run.

    The House of Representatives was designed to be a broad-based legislative body, more representative of widespread public opinion and responsive to the people than any other element of the federal government. This is why the Constitution grants the House exclusive power to initiate revenue bills and take the country to war. The Founders intended the House to be a decentralized lawmaking body, not one dominated by a few select leaders.

    Unfortunately over the past several decades, leadership from both parties have concentrated more and more power into a select few leadership positions. This trend reached its zenith under Speaker Pelosi who routinely: 1) bypassed committees entirely by writing major legislation in the Speaker’s office or via the Rules Committee; 2) created and funded parallel quasi-committees (e.g. the “Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming”) to outflank dissenting committee chairs; and 3) prevented opponents from offering their own proposals or amendments on the House floor.

    To help prevent these practices from continuing, The Heritage Foundation recommends that the party caucuses of both parties adopt the following rules: 1) Rank-and-file members, not party leaders, should be allowed equal opportunity to nominate and vote for each party’s steering committee members; 2) Term limits should apply to all House party leadership positions, including the Speaker; and 3) A cap should be placed on the overall size of each committee so no one committee dominates the House.

    The 112th Congress will not be sworn-in until January 2011. However, just weeks after the November 2 elections, each party will meet to create their steering committees, which then allocate positions of authority to govern the full body. If the American people send a strong message for change next week, both parties should strongly consider adopting the reforms above to show they have listened.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    42 Responses to Morning Bell: Returning the People's House to the People

    1. DAVE SANSON, PHARR, says:

      DO YOU THINK THAT THE NEXT CONGRESS WILL HAVE THE GUTS TO CLOSE DOWN FIVE DEPARTMENTS, LIKE ENEGY, EDUCATION, ETC.

    2. Ben C. Ann Arbor, MI says:

      If you want to see a compelling arguement against ObamaCare view Dr. David Janda on You-Tube. If you STILL think ObamaCare is a good idea after viewing the video you are hopeless. If this isn't enough read HR4646 that has been sent to committee. And yesterday there is discussion of removing the mortage interest deduction on federal income tax. I didn't sleep last night.

    3. paul, cleveland, ohi says:

      You suggest term limits on committees. Why not term limits on all of our PROFESSIONAL congress members, It should not be a career. Country before self.

    4. Steve Ormond says:

      Thanks Heritage for all you do. I disagree, however, that these procedural changes would make a material change in Congress' actions. Ultimately what matters is the substance of what Congress does, not its process. My preference would be to have a committee created with Constitutional compliance as its main task. New legislation would have to be voted out of this committee to get to the floor, except in extraordinary circumstances. Hearings would be required. The statists in Congress would have to allow some fresh air into the process with this mechanism.

    5. Fielding, Rock Hill, says:

      I can appreciate the three suggested limitations on the leadership in the US House. I would add an additional reform. Change and or better define the jurisdiction of what subject matter each committee covers. As it stands now, a few committees get the greater majority of suggested legislation, and perhaps spreading the authorization and oversight functions more evenly might give us better considered laws before passage.

    6. Jefferson Ogden says:

      I fully support this idea, however I do not believe it will ever happen. All people seek power and are reluctant to reduce it.

    7. Hank Richards says:

      Just (7) seven days left . . . . America really needs to take this election seriously.

    8. Mike Riley, MckInney says:

      When we vote out "obama" and in a responsible conservative president can we impeach reid and pelosi for lying?

    9. Steve Foster; Cheyen says:

      I think this country needs term limits for all "professional politicians" in our Congress. If a person can't get his or her work done in 12 years in Washington, then he or she should let someone else try. We limit the President to 8 years, so why shouldn't Coongress persons be limited to 12 years?

    10. Ken Jarvis - Las Veg says:

      This is what MURDOCH ORDERED ON

      8-25-10

      Senate – GOP 53 – 47 GOP Pick up 6 seats.

      House – GOP 215 – 220 GOP Pick up 42 seats.

      THAT will give us 2 years of GOP control of Congress.

      They will do NOTHING

      and the NEXT election in 2012

      Obama will get a second term

      So, that will be good.

      2 years of NO IMPROVEMENT

      and then Demo Control again

      and REAL IMPROVEMENT WILL HAPPEN.

      LVKen7@Gmail.com

    11. Mary Triola 306 Spru says:

      I am a member my # is41998030. I always got my Morning Bell e-mails everyday. Since I moved to this new address I have not been getting them I miss your perspective of the day. I am so frightened for MY COUNTRY I need all the information available from Heritage.

    12. Suzanne, Madison, MS says:

      I agree with your suggestions on how Congress should operate and also agree with Paul that all of the Congressmen and Senators should have term limits. We need to restore the power back to the people of the United States.

      I have been told by a career special interest person that bills have not been read by the officials for over 30 years. He said that is what they pay the lawyers that they hire as assistants to do. He was such a lawyer over 30 years ago in that capacity! This also should be changed.

    13. Adr, California says:

      Term limits for every member from senate, congress, committees. Treat all members as plain main street Americans, including their tax duties, their health care and social securities, pension. Allow each one of them finish themselves after four years of corruption and lying to their constituents. Must be For The People and not for their pockets. US Constitution must not be changed or altered.

    14. Bob, Raleigh, NC says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with Paul's comment on subjecting all of Congress to TERM LIMITS. Consider it a mechanism of "damage control." Term limits would definitely change the complexion of the types of individuals that would run for office knowing their time in D.C. would be limited. I am tired of seeing these old wind bags on bottled oxygen being wheeled in to the voting chamber to cast either a 'Yea' or 'Nay' vote depending on what side of their mouths they dribble out of . I have long held that TERM LIMITS would truly keep the trash from piling up.

    15. Del Curtis says:

      These look like good points to be considered by the parties. Every representative and senator should also be required to read Noah Webster's 1794 observations on the French revolution and their application, regarding factions, to the United States.

      The XVII Amendment must be repealed. The senate wasn't intended to be some kind of elite house. It was designed to represent the state governments and make certain the proper separation of powers between the federal and state governments remained.

      It is also important that the congress respect that "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." does not allow them to enact such legislation that would violate the Constitution.

    16. janice miller of Ind says:

      i agree that power has been abused by both sides in Washington DC

      and the American people need to wake up…it took me 70 years to wake up

      i Just hope its not too late

    17. toledofan says:

      I think that one of the major problems our framers wouldn't have anticipated or wouldn't have even contemplated is the sheer number of people living in America who, today, everyday, depend on the government for their existense. The Democrats have supported the notion that some people, except themselves, make too much money and they should share their fortunes. In addition, to buy votes, the Democrats have supported, funded and organized the not so wealthy, ACORN comes to mind, to vote, so, the Democrats could retain their power. It's just amazing that the Democrats don't have one real positive thing that the majorioty of Americans support and they can toot their horn about. Yet there are still many who will vote for the same old shuck and jive. Amazing isn't it?

    18. toledofan says:

      think that one of the major problems our framers wouldn't have anticipated or wouldn't have even contemplated is the sheer number of people living in America who, today, everyday, depend on the government for their existense. The Democrats have supported the notion that some people, except themselves, make too much money and they should share their fortunes. In addition, to buy votes, the Democrats have supported, funded and organized the not so wealthy, ACORN comes to mind, to vote, so, the Democrats could retain their power. It's just amazing that the Democrats don't have one real positive thing that the majorioty of Americans support and they can toot their horn about. Yet there are still many who will vote for the same old shuck and jive. Amazing isn't it?

    19. Deborah, Northern Ca says:

      Speaker Pelosi who routinely: 1) bypassed committees entirely by writing major legislation in the Speaker’s office or via the Rules Committee; 2) created and funded parallel quasi-committees (e.g. the “Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming”) to outflank dissenting committee chairs; and 3) prevented opponents from offering their own proposals or amendments on the House floor.

      this is FRIGHTENING! 1. which major legislation did she write bypassing the proper order of writing legislation? 2. I've seen this one! 3. When did she do this ? It is not that I don't beleive she did these things but living in the San Francisco area when I speak with friends about this stuff I need facts. Thank you for your help!

    20. James - Longdrycreek says:

      Old bulls are shipped to market and old congressmen and women and the congressional structures deserve the same treatment.

      If the Republicans take the House and its leadership, the rules need to change dramatically. No kicking gravel on the parking lot, fellows and girls, but

      use Roberts Rules of Order [simple form] and cut the committees down and make them report in 30 days or less.

      Fire 75% of the congressional staff and reduce the wages and perks of Congress and the President to what an average family makes and does for trips.

      Return to the first principles of the Republic.

    21. Ken, OR. says:

      You only go part way. Also needed are comprehensive term limits for ALL elected officials. Even more desperately needed is a 90 day per year limit on Congressional Sessions. They should spend their lives back home where they belong. Telecommuting in todays world provides them more than enough opportunity to "disuss" things. The voting citizens must be allowed more "face time" with them so they never again become like the last session. The sessions should be used for the "actual" work of finalizing and voting on issues. If they can't get it done in 90 days, it doesn't need doing.

      Ken. OR

    22. KC - New Mexico says:

      I fully support the recommendations from HF. The idea of professional politicians has hurt and partially corrupted the process. If Congress really intended to represent the people, then many of the actions taken over the last 2 years and in the past from other administrations would not have happened. This is also a driving change from the Tea Party. We need to bring back representative government that is for the majority – not based on money or special interests. We need to become a great country again – 1 week to go to clean house!

    23. Lil, San Diego says:

      Much too optimistic! Those recommendations will never happen! Just look at how the DNC & RNC handled the re-elections, certain candidates were granted extraordinary leeway while others were never reprimanded for temper tantrums and "sore looser" attitudes. These are solid recommendations; but, unfortunately, we have too many career politicians in both the House & the Senate!

    24. Mike Hadaway, Rome, says:

      I agree with your ideas, but how do you propose that we get the message across. Can/will the Heritage Foundation lead this? What can we do to help?

    25. Jack Lohman says:

      You have to be kidding! The R's are better??? They got us into this mess in the first place.

      And term limits? Yes, make them ONE 6-year term. It is the fundraising for 2nd and subsequent terms that are killing us. Nothing is going to change until we get the bribes out of the system, and only public funding of campaigns will accomplish that.

      Angry? Yes, and I’m a Republican. But our congress is selling out constituents from both political parties.

      Jack Lohman
      http://moneyedpoliticians.net

    26. Sue Marie, Detroit says:

      The Tea party republican house or senate newbys must remember the ruling class and Obama "would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven" a phrase said by Milton. The Washington ruling class are trying to create a hell utopia for the country class while the ruling class have a dictatorship heavenly life on the backs country class (us).

    27. Timpclimber Provo, U says:

      Too simple, too honest, too much accountability, they won't even consider them.

    28. ThomNJ says:

      Yes, term limits for all of them.

      Additionally, I'd like to see Comngress DO THEIR JOB instead of a bunch of un-elected bureaucrats. I noticed that today, the EPA is going ahead with rule making for diesels and the trucking industry on emissions. BY WHAT RIGHT DO THEY MAKE LAWS? CONGRESS is supposed to be the law-making body, but the Congress has abrogated this responsibility over the years. The Congress needs to rein in activist judges and federal agencies by using their duly appropriate CONSTITUTIONAL powers to overrule these usurpers to law-making.

    29. J. H. Gudwer, Naples says:

      You can't be serious? Do you really think any change what so ever will be effected in Washington even if the repubs take control of the house ( and maybe the senate )? We, the american people, have left things go for far to long and the only direction we will continue to go is down, until our once great country resembles some third world entity.

    30. Jeanne Stotler says:

      Along with term limits for all serving in congress, 12 years max, how about having them sign a certification that they have read the Constitution and do this with each bill, no more having to "Pass it to see what's in it" . iT IS DISGRACEFUL for a congress person to expect us, the common people, to adhere to a bill they have not read and then don't understand. Now they tell us that with the Obama care, that "We will like it once we get use to it" Let's also pass a 28th admendment that requires Congress to be covereds by the same laws they inflict on us, including health care.

    31. Pingback: Morning Bell: Returning the People’s House to the People | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. « Gds44's Blog

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    33. Ken Forsberg Mason, says:

      No question about it.

      We are not being represented as our constitution spells out.

      The disgusting and unexcuable fact is that members of our congress continue to get away with not being held accountable to their oath of office for all the "pork barrel" add ons that are hidden or disguised intentionally in the volumes of legislation they vote for, if they vote at all.

      Bills submitted to the floor to be voted upon should be carefully screened to only address what the true intent or purpose of what that bill represents at face value and not used by members of Congress as a "Front" to decieve the American people into supporting legislation that is in reality written to serve the shelfish and irresponsible purpose of paying back political acts of misresentation and corruption at great expense to working class Americans.

      The American people clearly saw through the "Obama Care" legislation and strongly voiced their opposition and discontent, however, Union payback and political favors clearly pushed aside the will of us as the majority of Americans that live and participate daily in the true reality of paying bills, making an honest living and surviving on what we earn.

      We are truly in a state of taxation without representation

      Yes, change has come, Mr. President, we took one more giant step towards "Share the Wealth" socialism in our county. American's have a great history of "Sharing their personal wealth" with others in America and the World without having it taken from them against their will.

      The real question is, how much more of this kind of change can we as a Nation tolerate and remain what we as Americans stand for?

      .

    34. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      The Constitution gives the qualifications for being a representative. You have to be 25

      and five years as a resident of the state in which you live. I don't know. I'll have to check the number of years. Anyway, the Constitution says that a congressman has to

      serve two years. The qualifications to be a senator are 30 years and seven years as a

      citizen of the state in which you live. The qualifications for President? 35 and 14 years. Of those three positions, Congressman, Senator, and President? Which one of

      those three has term limits? One. President, (and by extension), Vice President. The

      other two, senator, and congressman, don't have term limits. Why not limit senators to six years, and congressmen to two years? That's eight years. That's how long the

      President, should he, or she, win a second term.

    35. KLIMAX Baltimore, Ma says:

      The arrogance of both Pelosi and Reid is down right scary as they continue to "Do what they dam well please" and ride roughshod over anyone who gets in their way !! I agree with all your suggestions and the American Citizens must make their feelings known on this matter to their Representatives !! It will take millions of phone calls and E-Mails to get the attention of the egotistical, self centered elected officials who are more interested in representing special interests than the American Citizens !!!

      If it becomes necessary we should use the Constitution to force the issue with anyone in the Government who does not agree that the House and Senate work for the people not the other way around !!!

      I'm sure NObama is behind these Government Officials who continue to ignore their responsibility to the American Citizens other wise I don't think Obamacare would have never passed along with his Socialistic Agenda that NObama is trying to use to undermine OUR Constitution and push the Islamic Religion behind the scenes out of the public view !!!

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    37. AD - Downey CA says:

      "“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it";

      or,

      "I had to pull the trigger to see if the gun was loaded" – Lee Harvey Oswald;

      or,

      "I had to trip the detonator to see if it would blow up" – Tim McVeigh.

      Those didn't fly, and neither does Ms. Pelosi's gibberish.

    38. Danielle, New Orlean says:

      How about all bills up for vote must only have wording that is relevant to the main bill. No more throwing in unrelated surprises to make a bill more palatable. If it can't pass on it's own merit it should not pass. For instance, what does filing 1099's for purchases over $600 got to do with healthcare? The workings of our gov't. has become so twisted and convoluted that they don't know which way is up! Sickens me.

    39. Barry S, says:

      I also agree on term limits, and have believed that they are necessary. Fresh blood and the resulting new input might well reduce the amount of power that certain politicians seem to compound year after year at the expense of voters. I also feel that there should be a limit on how many millions of dollars these politicians should accept. It seems reasonable that a politician who is prone to the temptation of graft and corruption would be hindered by legislation that would create an end result of his or her being bought outright by organized groups outside the grasp of the ordinary hard-working taxpayer.

      Sadly, government "service" is really a misnomer. Politicians tend to "serve" themselves at the expense of those of us who have hired them.

    40. pally says:

      Let's all keep in mind this huge, intentional overreach of this administration who always has blame anywhere else while tripling this county's problems financially, economically and irresponsibly. The republicans have a great, unfair challenge ahead of them, True Americans will help all we can.

    41. Tama Cole, Dallas, T says:

      Heritage is recommending term limits for Congress, but won't this cause more "Lame Duck" problems? I think the Founders meant for us to be on the alert, instead of lazy, to vote out the "Bad" ones in Congress. I worry that term limits will make us lazy again because we won't have to pay attention to get rid of the "bad" ones in Congress. Term limits will also get rid of "Good" people as well. What do you think about the 28th Ammendment that "Congress shall make no laws that apply to the Citizens of the US that don't apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the Citizens of the US"?

    42. Elsa Horlock says:

      Please send your suggestions for the new congress to every single one of the congressmen before January 2011.

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