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We Must Return to The Basics

Unfortunately, our legislative process in Congress is broken and I submit it must be changed by going back to the basics.

With the 117th Congress coming to a close and with a shift in majority parties, now is the appropriate time to make changes to the Rules of the House.

That is why I recently testified before the House Rules Committee to offer amendments to the rules.

I believe simple changes to our current House rules could help fix the broken legislative process.

One of my proposed rules changes is to restore the Holman Rule, which existed for more than 100 years. In 1876, the Holman Rule was created by Congressman William Holman as a tool to cut spending by restructuring an agency. Holman thought spending was out of control.

The Holman Rule allows representatives to offer retrenchment amendments on the floor of the House of Representatives to appropriations bills. Retrenchment means these amendments could rearrange an agency or department of the Federal Government to cut specific programs, positions, or salaries.

In 2017, I revived this rule for the 115th Congress, but in 2019 Speaker Pelosi dismantled this tool.

I suggested rules changes limiting abuses that regularly happen in Congress today. I proposed a change to the germaneness rule. Its goal would be to only allow amendments to a bill that actually pertain to the bill’s purpose. Also, I proposed a single purpose rule so that a bill could only have one purpose. Further, these limitations could not be waived without a two-thirds vote of the House.

Shouldn’t a bill address one issue and be straight forward? My single purpose rule would make it so.

This rule would still allow for complex bills like an infrastructure bill. However, two bills or concepts could not be combined into a single bill unless their purposes were the same. For example, a bill to set doctors’ reimbursement rates under Medicare could not be amended into a rewrite of Medicare.

To rewrite Medicare would require a separate bill.

In the words of my friend, Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), when someone tries to amend his bill and it isn’t pertinent, he says, “Get your own bill.”

By creating a stricter germaneness standard, you actually help preserve the single purpose rule.

For the germaneness and single purpose changes to be effective, they should not be waived.

Additionally, I proposed an amendment to set time limits for bill introduction. This would focus individual members on bills that the members are most passionate about. It would also reduce the practice of introducing a bill on the cause celebre of the day for publicity purposes.

This amendment allows a remedy for bills that are “truly” important by giving members the ability to ask the House for permission to introduce their “vital” bill late.

Numerous states have deadlines and stricter requirements for late introduction.

The American people deserve a legislative body that works for them. I believe these suggestions would make our legislative process more efficient.

Returning to the basics can work.

Also, for more than 200 years, every member had a right to make a motion that the Chair was vacant, which if passed would trigger the election of a new Speaker.

Polarization of our country, combined with 24-hour news and social media where every day has some alleged crisis or someone claiming the sky is falling, has created an atmosphere where a Speaker can legitimately fear a motion to vacate the Chair daily. This can lead to chaos.

Accordingly, I offered a rules change dealing with a motion to vacate the Chair.

The current rule implemented by Speaker Pelosi and her majority prohibits the long standing right of individual members to make the motion. My amendment restores the individual right but provides guardrails to allay a legitimate fear of chaos by limiting when the motion may be made.

Lastly, in any given election, the American people make a decision. The American people elect 435 representatives. Each member of Congress represents roughly the same number of people. In order to ensure the people’s will is executed in Congress, I proposed that committee assignments on most committees reflect the proportionality of the members elected.

Most of these amendments restore old rules or clarify existing rules. It would mean a return to the basics of parliamentary procedure.

My experience has been a return to the basics is usually a good idea.

– Congressman H. Morgan Griffith

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