Magazine article Insight on the News

Republicans Locked out of the House

Magazine article Insight on the News

Republicans Locked out of the House

Article excerpt

As the old saying goes, there are two things you should never see being made - sausage and legislation. Although I cannot attest to this with regard to sausage, I can confirm it when it comes to federal laws.

Frankly, today's legislative process can be disgusting. And although there are many facets to this issue, for me what is the most repugnant - and least understood by voters - is the manner in which the majority party in the House of Representatives routinely shuts the minority party out of the process.

Gagging the opposition through rules that limit the minority party's numbers and influence on committees, enhancing the majority party's weight in staff ratios and eliminating the ability to offer amendments - all are standard operating procedure for the Democrats, and they prevent Republicans from doing the job they have been elected to do.

Membership in the House stands at 258 Democrats, 175 Republicans and one independent (a socialist who has aligned himself with the Democratic Party), a 60-40 ratio of Democrats to Republicans. However, the composition of most House committees, and certainly all the major ones (Ways and Means, Rules, and Appropriations), does not properly reflect this ratio.

For example, the powerful Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, drafts all revenue bills and hence determines the level of taxes that Americans must pay. On Ways and Means, the Democrats have skewed the membership to effectively undermine any influence the minority party could have on tax legislation. Of the 38 members sitting on Ways and Means in the 103rd Congress, 14 are Republicans, reflecting a 63 percent Democrat to 37 percent Republican membership instead of the proper 60-40 ratio.

The most egregious abuser of stacking the odds in favor of the majority party is the Rules Committee. To fully comprehend the magnitude of this obstacle, one must understand that, according to House rules, all legislation is required to go before the Rules Committee before it can be heard by the House.

The Rules Committee determines the length of debate, the structure of the debate and which amendments, if any, may be proposed to the legislation under consideration.

It is a powerful committee indeed - and one controlled by the Democrats. Of the 13 members on the committee, nine are Democrats and four are Republicans. The Democrats have stacked the Rules Committee so that the ratio is 69-31. …

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