Morgan Griffith: Pandemic procedures produce poor policy
Responses to the coronavirus pandemic introduced a distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” workers.
Based on how Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been running the U.S. House of Representatives lately, she seems to think Members of Congress fall in the “non-essential” category.
I have written previously about how the proxy voting rules instituted in the House run afoul of the Constitution and reduce our effectiveness as legislators. Representatives currently have the ability to let another member cast their votes for them. Among other serious constitutional flaws, I believe this setup violates the requirement that the House have a quorum to conduct business.
Quite simply, it allows some representatives to not do their jobs. The Washington Post noted this fact in a story published earlier this month, highlighting the views of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who supports proxy voting, and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who opposes it:
In a late July exchange with Hoyer, Scalise noted that there is a 15 percent increase in those using proxy voting late in the last legislative day of the week.
“You’re literally signing a document on your stationery to the clerk of the House saying you’re physically unable to be here, when you were physically here that day,” Scalise said.
A recent energy bill that came to the floor, H.R. 4447, highlights many of the problems in Speaker Pelosi’s rule over the House.
Some individual pieces of the bill had gone through the committee process, but others did not, and the 900-page overall bill went straight to the floor.
It contains a jumble of policies that add regulatory burdens and impose more mandates on the American people while impeding the innovation that could actually solve our energy challenges.
Some aspects of H.R. 4447 have bipartisan support, but others cater to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) Green New Deal agenda, thus making it a show vote rather than a serious piece of legislation.
A total of 97 amendments to the bill were allowed to go to the floor, but they were divided up into four packages of amendments that had to be voted on en bloc. Just like the overall bill, these amendments contained some policies I would support on their own paired with unacceptable policies that would harm energy security, reliability, and affordability in this country.
While reading over those 97 amendments, I found at least a half-dozen Democratic amendments I could have supported on their own in addition to many of the Republican amendments that I believe would have improved the bill.
Notably, the only amendment that received an up or down vote on its own was offered by Congresswomen Debra Haaland (D-NM), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the latter two members of the liberal “Squad.” It would increase spending on renewable energy research by 50 percent.
I am a supporter of research, but in addition to spending money we do not have, this drastic increase would serve purposes far removed from our country’s energy needs. In fact, without the increase, we still spend more on renewable energy than on the U.S. Department of Energy offices of fossil energy, nuclear energy, electricity, and cybersecurity combined.
During hearings of the House’s Climate Committee, I have asked witnesses about parity in research dollars on sources of energy production. Many of those who are more liberal agree that also supporting fossil fuel research is important to the goal of lowering carbon emissions.
As many parts of the world, including China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa will continue to burn fossil fuels, research could bring about ways to burn them more cleanly.
In any event, there was no way allowing a separate vote solely on that amendment and the other 96 only in large groups could produce good legislation.
Packaging en bloc amendments for fewer votes supposedly minimizes the chances of contracting COVID-19, but I believe we can make other adjustments, such as assigned seating, using the visitors’ gallery, and adding more congressional voting machines, to safely accommodate more votes on amendments.
I believe we were elected to take tough votes. I read the amendments and was ready to vote on them. But Speaker Pelosi’s pandemic procedures do not let us do the jobs we were elected to do. Clearly, she believes lawmaking is non-essential.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Morgan Griffith represents the Ninth District of Virginia in the House of Representatives.