House Rules Committee: Congress Needs to Take Back Its Power

House Rules did its part to encourage the Article I Renaissance with a nearly four hour hearing and thoughtful expert testimony examining how Congress’ role has been diminished over decades, as well as how to reassert congressional authority. 

Kudos to Chair McGovern and RM Cole for a truly bipartisan discussion, calling all witnesses jointly, not limiting Members to 5 minutes, and relying on CRS for background material (instead of using the Majority vs. Minority approach for hearing prep). 

The hearing covered Congress’ role in war powers, increasing staff capacity and pay, bulking up internal legal capacity to offset the executive Office of Legal Counsel, the impact of polarization, and delegation of rulemaking and budget authority.  The committee discussed the need for built-in institutional checks (e.g. sunsetting authority or cutting off funding) to lessen political pressures. At times, Congress may be motivated to not act to protect their majority or a president of the same political party.

Chair McGovern noted “the time has come for Congress to push back — not to rein in a particular president, but to rein in all presidents,” emphasizing that “the next president is not going to have an epiphany and just hand Congress its power back. We need to seize it.” Rep. Shalala, who served as HHS Secretary in the Exec. Branch during the Clinton Administration, illustrated the point saying “as someone that sat on the other side we would somehow celebrate a badly drafted piece of legislation because we could drive a car through it and do whatever we thought was best.”

It is undoubtedly time for Congress to reclaim its power.