by Vickie Deppe
The 118th Congress got off to a contentious start with the election of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker. McCarthy has the dubious distinction of enduring 15 rounds of voting before securing the top spot in the House of Representatives…the longest battle over the Speaker’s gavel since before the Civil War. Dubbed the “Never Kevins,” all but a few of the holdouts were in fact more interested in reforms to the way the House conducts its business than in replacing McCarthy. While the standoff was described by observers as “an outrage,” “chaotic,” and “dysfunctional,” it was, in fact, democracy in action.
Though the United States as a whole is not a democracy, the House of Representatives is. It is apportioned by population and the majority rules. (The other branches of our government do not function in this manner. They are designed to temper the passions of the majority and protect the rights of the minority.) Over the years, the House strayed from its democratic mission as more and more power accrued to the Speaker’s office.
The reforms secured as a result of the stand-off include:
- Bills will be limited to a single subject, and amendments must be germane to that subject. Every measure will have to stand or fall on its own merits.
- Members will be guaranteed 72 hours to read what they’re being asked to vote on.
- Increases to the debt ceiling will no longer be on autopilot.
- A three-fifths majority will be required to raise taxes.
- The threshold for a no-confidence vote was returned to a single member, as it had been for over two centuries before it was changed to a majority of the members in 2019.
A synopsis of the rules package is available here.
These reforms upended the status quo in which the Speaker served moneyed interests and the people’s duly elected Representatives were expected to serve the Speaker. The United States House of Representatives is once again “the People’s House,” its members no longer under the complete control of leadership and the special interests that control them. Defending the status quo, Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) made it plain that this standoff was not about policy or effective representation, but over campaign dollars and the attendant political favors they purchase. In an interview with Neal Cavuto, Crenshaw pointedly suggested that Lauren Bobert (R-CO) and Bob Good (R-VA) owed McCarthy a blind and unconsidered vote in return for the millions of dollars McCarthy had allocated to their campaigns.
Many commentators described the fracas as “embarrassing.” What should be embarrassing is that fewer than two dozen in a 435-member body had the courage to stand up in the face of threats, intimidation, and ridicule to secure these reforms. It also demonstrates the urgent need for state legislators to step up on behalf of their constituents…because Washington is broken, but the states have the power to fix it.
Article V News
Our friend David Guldenschuh has prepared a new Legislative Progress Report to kick off the 2023 session. Detailed information on current legislation follows.
Connecticut Representative Kathy Kennedy has filed an application for a general convention. HJ 23 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Government Affairs and Elections. The last application for a general convention was passed in 1980.
Delegate selection and oversight legislation has been filed in Arizona Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, the Texas House, the Texas Senate, and the West Virginia Senate. Notably, the Arizona, Missouri, and Nebraska renditions require bipartisan participation in the selection of commissioners, and we encourage other states to follow suit. If your state doesn’t already have a DSO in place or you think it could use a refresh, you may view the Academy 3.0 Delegate Selection and Oversight Sessions here and here, and access Path To Reform’s library of DSO legislation here.
The Convention of States Project application has been filed in Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, and Wyoming as well as the Virginia House and Senate. In Nebraska, Senator Steve Halloran has filed LR 31 to remove the sunset clause contained in last session’s rendition. In Montana, SJ 2 passed in the Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee. Two renditions of the CoSP application have been filed in Iowa. SJR 1 follows the boilerplate language, and SJR 2 adds verbiage requesting that Congress propose amendments of its own. Both have been assigned to the Senate State Government Committee. The CoSP application has been carried over in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate.
Fiscal constraints applications have been filed in Arizona and South Carolina. Both await committee hearings.
Term limits applications have been filed in Arizona, the Connecticut House and Senate, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah. The Arizona rendition has bipartisan support.
The Wolf-PAC Free & Fair Elections application has been filed in Oregon and Washington.
In New Jersey, SCR 81, an application for an Article V Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment, impose term limits on members of Congress and the Supreme Court, and change the allocation of Electoral College votes has been carried over from the previous session.
The next meeting of the Phoenix Correspondence Commission is scheduled for March 10 at 9 a.m. PST. The PCC is an official channel for the states to communicate with each other and with Congress regarding Article V matters. If you would like to represent your state at the PCC, please contact Bruce Lee.
With the opening of the new legislative session comes the expected flurry of Article V legislation and attendant media coverage, both pro and con. David Walker, Comptroller General during the Clinton and Bush administrations, penned a piece for the Washington Times urging fiscal restraint on the part of the federal government. Legislators and other state officials who are interested in learning how their state can join in the mandamus suit referenced therein may contact Walker here.
In Missoula, testimony by Rick Santorum in support of the Convention of States Project application (SJR 2) received coverage by The Daily Montanan and The Independent Record.
At The Election Law Blog, UCLA Professor of Law and Political Science Rick Hasen wonders, “Will the Republican Rules Package in the House Make Calling a Constitutional Convention More Likely?” Our friend Sam Fieldman, National Counsel for Wolf-PAC, points out that the current rule differs by just one word from the one approved by the previous Congress, and has remained intact after both Republican to Democratic and Democratic to Republican transitions. Our answer to Professor Hasen’s question is this: If a Convention is more likely now than it was two years ago, it’s thanks to the tireless efforts of Article V advocates around the country and across the political spectrum, not a result of the new rules package.
Business Insider strikes again, this time with a tortured attempt to stoke fear by linking the Article V movement to the far-right and former President Donald Trump…an Article V opponent, incidentally. One must wonder if the author knows that Democratic interest in Article V surged in the wake of Trump’s 2016 victory. He eventually gets around to admitting that Article V isn’t just a conservative phenomenon: Wolf-PAC was founded by progressive podcaster Cenk Uygur and is supported largely by left-leaning activists. Ironically, he criticizes Convention of States Project’s expenditures by its super PAC in support of pro-Article V state legislative candidates…the very thing Wolf-PAC is working for an Article V Convention to stop.
Who Said It?
“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.
There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
December 17, 1814