Article I Project
The Case for Congressional Empowerment
The authors of the Constitution intended Congress to be first among the federal government’s three co-equal branches. Endowed with the power to legislate, tax, spend, and oversee the weaker Executive and Judicial branches – while simultaneously held to tighter public accountability – Congress was meant to be the driving force in federal policymaking.
Thanks to the Ed Meese Center and The Federalist Society for putting this event together. And thanks to all of you for being here this afternoon.
I’m here today wearing two hats. First of all, I’m proud to join my good friends Bob Goodlatte and Chuck Grassley, as well as Tom Marino and Orrin Hatch, without whose leadership and work on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees this bill wouldn’t be possible.
I’m also proud to stand with my friend, Congressman John Ratcliffe, who I joined with last month to launch the Article I Project: a network of House and Senate conservatives working together on a new agenda of government reform and congressional re-empowerment. All ten members of A1P are original co-sponsors of this legislation.
At a time when our political system in Washington is held in such low regard by Americans of all political stripes, it may sound bizarre to talk about re-empowering Congress, one of the most distrusted institutions in the country.
But the premise of A1P is that the systematic dysfunction within our federal government is a result of a legislative branch that is not too strong, but too weak.
Our goal is simply to make Congress once again responsible – both in the sense of doing our constitutional duty, and doing it transparently so that our fellow countrymen can hold us accountable for the choices we make.
Over the course of the twentieth century, and accelerating in the twenty-first, Congress has handed too many of its constitutional responsibilities to the Executive Branch, creating a “headless fourth branch” of the federal government, untethered from any clear lines of accountability connecting policy, policymakers, and the people.
This upending of our constitutional order has led not only to bad policy, but to deep public distrust in our governing institutions.
Although Congress bears primary responsibility for this toxic state of affairs, the other two branches share in the blame.
In particular, the Supreme Court’s doctrine of “Chevron deference” has helped to midwife this shadowy fourth branch, by requiring Courts, under certain circumstances, to surrender their Article III constitutional power of judicial review to executive agencies.
Chevron deference is hardly the only problem with the administrative state, nor is it the biggest. But it may be the one with the clearest and most obvious fix.
That’s why Chevron reform was the first issue Congressman Ratcliffe and I got to work on after we helped launch A1P last month. And that’s why, as members of our respective Judiciary Committees, we were both thrilled to be able to partner on this issue with Chairmen Goodlatte and Grassley and former Chairman Hatch – some of the most accomplished legal reformers in Congress.
I will let others dig into the details of the legislation, and I very much look forward to the input of the esteemed panelists Heritage and the Federalist Society have put together today.
For anyone interested in learning more about this reform, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the A1P policy brief hot off the presses this morning: “Reforming Executive Discretion, Part I: The End of Chevron Deference.”
I want to thank all my colleagues for letting me join them here today, and I look forward to the day when we’re on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue watching a future president sign this bill into law.