Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty


Welcome, 112th Congress by grassroothawaii
January 5, 2011, 11:23 am
Filed under: Economy, Limited Government | Tags: , , ,

by Frances Nuar

Today Americans throughout the nation welcomed into office the newly elected 112th Congress in Washington DC. With a new Congress comes new rules, which newly-elected Speaker John Boehner promised would increase transparency and decrease Federal spending, a welcome change from the 111th Congress which accumulated $3.22 trillion in debt–more debt than the first 100 Congresses combined.

Among the most notable promises Speaker Boehner made:

1. Every new bill proposed in Congress will have to be accompanied by a Constitutional citation.  With this provision the new Congress is seeking to keep front and center the oath they took upon entering office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Boehner’s commitment to upholding that oath and humbly reminding his fellow members of Congress their power is derived from the Constitution, not in spite of it, is an excellent start to a more accountable 112th Congress– accountable to both the Constitution they have sworn to uphold and we the people whom they represent.

2. Bills must be made publicly available at least three days before being voted upon, allowing not only Members of the House, but also the public to read legislation before an uneducated vote creates unexplainable legislation. Congress ought to be informed of the bills they pass, not the other way around as former speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously declared: “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it”. Additionally, the new rules require more accessibility to Congressional proceedings in electronic form, including audio and video coverage when possible. Transparency will lead to more accountability, and I for one am eager to see Congress implement this.

These particular measures coincide with a petition the Grassroot Institute signed along with 18 other organizations in Hawaii asking for similar transparency measures on the local level including:

  • Broadcast more legislative proceedings and post them on the web.
  • Give more notice for all legislative hearings—at least three business day
  • Proposed bill amendments should be posted online ASAP

3. Perhaps most importantly, the new rules contain a “Cut-As-You-Go” provision that prohibits the House to consider bills which increase net spending. So spending bills must be accompanied by spending cuts–to net zero spending or less.

Grassroot Institute also has similar legislation we would like to propose here in Hawaii-the concept of fiscal notes. Currently we are the only state in the nation which does not require bills to have fiscal notes–or price tags. This is detrimental for two reasons: we do not establish the fiscal ramifications of a bill, and as such make legislative decisions with no regard for the budgetary consequences. An informed legislature is just as important as in informed public.

So, welcome, 112th Congress. And Hawaii, let’s do our part in implementing some of these positive changes here and now.

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