House Appropriations voice votes allow members to avoid accountability
© Anne Wernikoff and Greg Nash

The House Appropriations Committee has so far considered five of the 12 appropriations subcommittee spending bills. Not a single one of these bills received a recorded vote at full committee. Nearly $700 billion of spending that will come from the taxpayer, and increase our debt, was approved without a single member of the committee being put on the record with a vote during full committee consideration. As the appropriations process continues in the House, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersGreene fined a third time for refusing to wear mask on House floor Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay MORE (R-Ky.), and the ranking member of the committee, Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), should either request a recorded vote on their own initiative or encourage one of the committee members to do so.

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The American people have a right to have their representatives on the Appropriations Committee on the record as to whether or not they support an appropriations bill at full committee. Chairmen often move significant policy and spending bills like appropriations measures by voice vote. This is done to protect members from casting a vote that would signal their approval or disapproval of spending. Such spending is often wasteful and beyond the constitutional scope of the federal government.

This year, the House Appropriations Committee has approved the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Energy and Water, Defense, and Legislative Branch Appropriations Bills without having a single representative of the American people cast a recorded vote on the measures. This practice protects individual members from the consequences of the committee's actions and insulates them from their constituents. It is by design.

The appropriations process is a critical part of the Founding Fathers' vision for our constitutional republic. As the Constitution makes clear in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time." It is true that nothing in that constitutional requirement states that there must be recorded votes by the Appropriations Committee on passing appropriations bills.

However, an interest in maximizing transparency, allowing constituents to hold their elected representatives accountable and requiring that members of the House who serve on the committee make clear their views, all argue for recorded votes on passage of spending bills at full committee.

Recorded votes will help inform the rest of the House about the strength of support or opposition to spending bills passed by the Appropriations Committee. If the vote is unanimous, then the committee's hand is made stronger during floor debate on the bill. If there are votes against spending measures at full committee, that fact will help other members of the House understand the nuances of committee support or opposition for the bill.

A voice vote allows members of the committee to avoid responsibility and accountability by claiming that they would have voted one way or another if given the chance. It is also in the committee's interest to have a voice vote to provide an impression of unanimity in the committee as the bill heads to the House floor for a vote. But the House belongs to the people, and it is in their interest to have their members' views recorded through a yea or nay vote when they spend money and increase the debt.

The House Appropriations Committee rightly has a great deal of power. With this power comes the responsibility of high accountability to the American people. Recorded votes at full committee on passage of spending bills would honor that high level of accountability members of the committee have to their fellow citizens. These bills are funded in part by the American taxpayer. Taxpayers deserve to have lawmakers on the record on these bills so they can hold them accountable at town hall meetings, through letters and on social media. Members of the House Appropriations Committee should be put on the record as they increase the national debt, weaken our national security and further slow our economy.

Siefring is director of government relations for FreedomWorks. His views are his own. Follow him on Twitter @NeilSiefring.