House Republican leaders this week announced a new roadmap to reinforce the U.S. Constitution’s design for a proper separation of powers in the federal government. Released as part of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) “A Better Way” agenda, this plan notes that liberty is at risk when one branch of government overreaches or when one branch fails to assert its proper role.
In his speech in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Speaker Ryan recalled the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia: “If you think a bill of rights is what sets us apart, you’re crazy. Every banana republic in the world has a bill of rights.” Rather, Justice Scalia emphasized that the separation of powers is the safeguard for our freedom. Speaker Ryan declared, “Our problem is not so much that the presidency, under both parties, keeps breaking the rules—though it does. Our problem is that Congress, under both parties, keeps forfeiting the game.” He declared this to be the most important part of his agenda “because we won’t be able to fix our safety net, or rebuild our military, or pare back the red tape, until we put the people back in the driver’s seat. It is not enough to have an efficient or effective government. We want a free government.”
The plan drafted by the Speaker’s Task Force on Restoring Constitutional Authority specifically identified the dangers of a “fourth branch,” the federal regulatory structure, “which though part of the executive has accumulated all three powers—to make, enforce, and interpret the law.” To push back on this constitutional infringement, the House GOP proposal details a plan by which Congress can limit federal agency authority, reform regulatory rulemaking procedures, use its “power of the purse,” and shine sunlight on the executive branch through more robust oversight.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) were key members of the task force that developed this plan. Its full text is available at better.gop.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: June 17, 2016