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The House is broken but Republicans can fix that

The House is broken but Republicans can fix that
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The House of Representatives is supposed to be for the people by design. It has shorter election cycles and smaller constituencies as its members are meant to be closer to the interests of Americans. For Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, the people have been shut out literally and symbolically. The things Congress does matter, but so does how it does them. When it comes to making laws for a country with hundreds of millions of people, how our elected officials do things matters a great deal, and it is time for Congress to get serious and do them the right way.

On the literal front, Congress is still surrounded by fences, patrolled by National Guard members, and closed off to constituents. Inside, Pelosi is forcing members of Congress to walk through metal detectors on their way to the House floor to vote. This is political theater driven by biased narratives pushed by the media and treated as gospel by opportunistic politicians. The result is that a cherished symbol of our government is today off limits to the people its members represent.

While it is far less noticeable than the fences on Capitol Hill, the symbolic disregard for Americans is more pervasive and has more effects. Despite holding her majority by only five votes, Pelosi rules the House with an iron fist, snuffing out deliberation and debate at every turn to force her liberal agenda through. From a federal election takeover bill to another $2 trillion in coronavirus relief, she is pushing bill after bill with a legislative process that runs roughshod over the rights of the minority party and the rights of their own constituents to be represented in Congress.

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Democrats have sidelined Republicans with the legislative process in the House. Almost every bill curbing their liberal agenda continues to arrive on the floor with no vital committee hearings, no committee markups to debate legislation, and no real amendments allowed on the floor. The only amendments allowed are selected ahead of time for show by a committee that consists of nine Democrats and four Republicans.

The lack of ability to debate and amend lies at the core of our spending dysfunction. Both sides retreat to their corners and seek their spending priorities but never have to give and take. It is like a business deciding to invest in every stock fund, staff increase, and research cost without ever making tough choices. If it sounds like most members have become little more than spectators, it is because they are. Yet Democrats complain that Republicans are using House rules to raise real objections to legislation or just ask that members of Congress record their votes.

Adding insult to the farce in the House, Democrats have also continued their proxy voting scheme as a response to the coronavirus. They claim they are “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency” even if they are present in Washington. Some Republicans have joined in the abuse of this protocol. All of them are getting away with this even as 75 percent of members and a substantial amount of their staff are now vaccinated. Reasonable minds would declare that it is time to show up for work again.

It is not enough to diagnose and decry what is broken, as Congress has a duty to fix it by whatever means it holds at its disposal. Republicans make up nearly half the House, yet they have been locked out of the process of legislating. Refusing to fight back is not an option. Sitting on the sidelines while flying to Washington each week to do nothing more than push a red button or green button for their votes is not acceptable.

One of the last means Republicans have been left with is the ability to use House rules to force members to do the jobs they were elected to do and cast recorded votes. Several have been venting that demanding votes on suspension bills ruins key schedules and obstructs bipartisan legislation. This view misses the reality that the entire process is already broken. But Republicans have the power to fix it, if they can bring Democrats to the negotiating table and restore regular order in the House.

Chip Roy serves in Congress as a Republican representative from Texas. Cesar Ybarra is a senior director of legislative affairs at Freedom Works.