President-elect Obama has called for Congress to move quickly and in a bipartisan fashion on legislation to help our economy get back on track. The Democratic majority in Congress has responded by proposing to revoke key elements of the Contract with America — reforms put in place as part of the Contract in 1995 to make Congress more transparent and accountable to the people it serves. The rules package Democratic leaders will reportedly bring to the floor and ram through the House today would change House rules to limit dissent and make it harder to cut taxes, and would repeal term-limits for incumbent committee chairmen such as Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), reversing key reforms adopted at the start of the historic 104th Congress in 1995. Congressional Democrats are also holding a one-party hearing Wednesday on economic “solutions” at which skeptical viewpoints are not allowed. (Don’t expect to hear anyone challenge the notion that using taxpayers’ hard-earned money to add 600,000 new government workers in the name of economic “stimulus” is responsible policy. Nor should you expect to hear from any of the more than 50 economists who have contacted my office to express skepticism about the idea that the government can simply borrow and spend us back to economic prosperity.)
At this time of economic anxiety, the American people deserve better. Open debate and transparency are two of the key ingredients needed to produce good legislation. The Contract with America was about restoring the bonds of trust between the American people and their elected leaders. If Congressional Democrats proceed with these regrettable changes, the message it sends about their intended style of legislating in the 11th Congress will be an ominous one.
As I and other House Republican leaders noted in a letter to Speaker Pelosi yesterday, the rules package Congressional Democrats are poised to ram through the House today does not represent change; it is reverting back to the undemocratic one-party rule and backroom deals that the American people rejected more than a decade ago. And it has grave implications for the American people and their freedom, coming at a time when an unprecedented expansion of federal power and spending is being hastily planned by a single party behind closed doors. Republicans will vigorously oppose repealing these reforms if they are brought to a vote on the House floor later today.