Feb 03 2016
Thank you, Matt, and thanks to all of you for being here. It’s always great to be back at the Kirby Center, and a humbling, inspiring experience to stand before this wonderful painting of the miracle at Philadelphia.
Today’s event is the official launch of the Article I Project. It’s also a fitting reflection of what of our Project is all about.
In the speeches and panels that follow, you will hear from nine conservative policymakers about how they intend to fix what’s wrong with Washington.
And you’re going to see an approach to policymaking – in stark contrast to the way bills are too often written today – that is open, collaborative, and ideas-driven.
This is the Article I Project in a nutshell: it’s a new network of House and Senate conservatives working together on a new agenda of government reform and congressional rehabilitation.
The premise of the Article I Project is simple: the federal government is broken, and congressional weakness is to blame.
The authors of the Constitution made Congress the most powerful of the federal government’s three co-equal branches. Congress was designed both as the most powerful and the most accountable to the people.
Consent of the governed in a republic depends on transparent policymaking by representative institutions. Congress’s embrace of this mandate is part of what has made America successful and exceptional.
But if there is one thing politicians of every party and ideology agree on, it’s that hard work and accountability are inconvenient.
And so, over the course of the twentieth century, and accelerating in the twenty-first, Congress has handed many of its constitutional responsibilities to the Executive Branch.
Increasingly harmful federal laws are increasingly written by people who never stand for election, via processes contrary to those provided for in the Constitution, and, indeed, with the explicit purpose of excluding the American people from their government and shielding policymakers from popular accountability.
Executive overreach is an enormous problem – but it’s a problem largely of Congress’s own making.
Under Houses, Senates, presidents, and Supreme Courts of every partisan combination, Congress has recast itself as the backseat driver of American politics.
Today, the vast majority of federal “laws” – upwards of 95 percent - are not passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president; they are imposed unilaterally by unelected Executive Branch bureaucrats.
At the same time, Congress’s budget process has almost entirely broken down. Most federal spending has been put on auto-pilot, authorized without a vote. Meanwhile, fiscal oversight, deliberation, and reform are a bipartisan charade.
This upending of our constitutional order has led not only to bad policy, but to deep public distrust in our governing institutions.
This dysfunction is a large and growing problem for the American republic. And for conservatives, it represents something like a crisis, for two reasons. First, conservatives believe in constitutionalism and the rule of law as such – as bulwarks of freedom and justice in our society.
And second, the transfer of lawmaking power from Congress to the Executive Branch tilts the policy playing field, rigging the lawmaking process to benefit the wealthy and well-connected at everyone else’s expense.
When elected representatives in Congress tie their own hands and empower unelected bureaucrats to make the laws, it thwarts the kinds of policies that conservatives tend to advocate – policies that limit the size and scope of government and protect the equal rights and opportunity of all Americans.
It’s no wonder Congress’s job approval ratings are at historic lows. In many ways we’re not even doing our job, and the nation is paying the price.
But there’s good news: what a weak Congress has broken a strong Congress can fix.
The constitutional powers necessary to put a representative, accountable federal government back to work for the American people are still right there in Article I, ready to be reasserted.
That is why we are launching the Article I Project.
The purpose of the Project is to develop, advance, and ultimately enact an agenda of structural reforms to strengthen Congress by reclaiming its constitutional legislative powers that today are being improperly exercised by the Executive Branch.
Specifically, A1P will focus on restoring congressional power in four key areas at the core of Washington’s broken status quo:
1. Reclaiming Congress’s power of the purse;
2. Reforming legislative “cliffs”;
3. Reasserting congressional authority over regulations and regulators;
4. And finally, curbing executive discretion.
My colleagues will talk in more detail about these four pillars of the Article I Project.
As they’ll explain, what A1P seeks is not so much to change Congress as to revive it, to make it once again live up to its founding purpose: to be the driving force in federal policymaking – not for the sake of politicians’ ambitions, but to protect and empower the American people.
Our goal here 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.
All that stands between today’s broken status quo and a government of, by, and for the people is the will of the Congress to finally step up and do its job.
For decades, Congress has done nearly everything in its power to avoid doing its job, to surrender its constitutional powers to the Executive Branch. And the country and the American people have suffered as a result.
But with these nine lawmakers, their collective and innovative ideas for reform, and their endless supply of political courage, we have an opportunity to change that.
It’s an honor to be a part of this effort, and I look forward to standing side-by-side with this group of lawmakers in many future battles on Capitol Hill.
Few people in Congress have been fighting this fight as long – or as successfully – as Chairman Jeb Hensarling. It’s been a privilege working with him on A1P, and it’s my privilege to hand the podium over to him.