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Restoring Regular Order

Commitment to America
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Penna Dexternever miss viewpoints

Last week the Republican party unveiled its legislative priorities. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy released the “Commitment to America,” a four-pillar agenda for the GOP should it retake the House. It’s a sort of Republican platform for the midterm elections presented by the man who will likely be Speaker if the House flips to the Republicans.

The plan emphasizes economic prosperity, national and border security, constitutional rights, and holding the current administration accountable. Specifically, it promises to do things like “fully fund effective border enforcement strategies,” provide federal incentives to help localities recruit and retain police officers, create a “Parents Bill of Rights,” advance school choice, and protect women’s sports.

These are important ideas. But process matters too. Washington Post columnist Henry Olson scrutinized the document and observed that of “39 discrete promises” in the Commitment to America, “There’s no sense which will receive primary or secondary focus.”

That may be a good thing. Henry Olsen says the plan suggests that would-be Speaker McCarthy “seems to envision a conference dedicated to certain broad principles whose members work to determine the details and priorities.” At a 2021 news conference, Mr. McCarthy said, “I think we should go back to working in committee.”

This would be a departure from the top-down approach to legislating which has been the norm for recent speakers in both parties. In a recent column, Mr. Olsen writes, “Members have become accustomed to a system in which everything of import comes down from the speaker’s office. Many GOP members, especially those in the Freedom Caucus, have chafed under this regime and want a return to regular order.”

Under regular order, House members and committees write legislation. Each bill is then considered in committee and sent to the floor to be voted on by the full House.

Comprehensive legislation arising from Speaker/White House negotiations can be amended. But bringing back regular order would empower elected representatives and restore a fair, “tried-and-true” method of legislating.penna's vp small

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