Morgan Griffith: Remaking the United States by April 1
Over the course of a few weeks, House Democrats have passed bill after bill aiming to fundamentally reshape the United States.
House Democrat leaders spare no adjectives on what these bills would do. Take H.R. 1, which passed the House on March 3. According to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), it is “paving the way for transformative progress.” In the words of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), “This is a very, very important bill. One could say that everything else we do depends on it.”
I have more to say on what H.R. 1 actually does below, but first, let’s take Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer at their word. If the bill is all they say, why is it being rushed through the House of Representatives?
The text of H.R. 1 approaches 800 pages, yet only one hearing on it was held by the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over the bill. That hearing was held on February 25, after the House Democrat leadership had already made plans to bring it to the floor. The committee did not markup H.R. 1.
Some amendments to the bill were considered on the House floor, but they were done so en bloc, meaning they were grouped together so that Members of Congress had to vote up or done on several at once, not consider them each individually.
As a result, most of the people’s representatives had little say on this “very, very important bill.”
This is so on H.R. 1 and several other bills because the rules passed by the House Democrat majority carved out an exception to a rule that bills must have been subject to a committee hearing and markup first.
The exception is that before April 1 of this year, any bill that passed the House in the last Congress does not need to go through the committee process before coming to the floor.
But these bills are not exactly the same as those that previously passed the House, and with 62 new Members elected, certainly the House is not the same either. The decrease in the House Democrat majority from 232 Members before the 2020 election to 222 afterward also belies the idea that these bills must be rushed through without regular order.
And what is contained in the bills that benefit from this slanted process?
H.R. 1 upends our country’s election system. The Constitution gives states the leading role in administering elections, but H.R. 1 imposes on them rules that would erode election integrity. States would have to permit ballot harvesting but could not require voter identification, even though ID is routinely needed for other purposes, such as cashing a check or boarding an airplane. Further, federal dollars would be diverted to political candidates, matching some donations by up to six times their amount. Other changes to election laws that some states made in haste during the pandemic would be made permanent across the country, including expanded mail-in voting without adequate safeguards against fraud.
Speaker Pelosi is right to call this bill “transformative,” but it is certainly not progress. The ultimate result would be to give people less confidence that their votes count.
H.R. 1280, passed within hours of H.R. 1, undermines law enforcement across the country. One of the changes they include is an end to qualified immunity. Without that legal protection, police officers would have a much harder time performing their duties. Not even the Virginia General Assembly under unified Democrat control was willing to go so far.
H.R. 5, passed on February 25, makes sweeping changes to the country’s laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, but refuses to accommodate churches and other religious institutions that may have sincere objections grounded in their faith. Religious freedom is a bedrock human right, but H.R. 5 makes no room for it. The lack of committee hearings and accelerated schedule of pushing H.R. 5 through the House meant that this egregious flaw in the bill received little attention.
An ideal legislative process includes deliberation, the ability to offer amendments to improve a bill, and the ability to build broad support for a measure by letting legislators offer input, whether in committee or on the floor. The current legislative process in the House of Representatives gives legislators little to do but wave at bills as they pass by. This is a great disservice to the constitutional responsibilities of the House and to the people we represent.
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 morgangriffith.house.gov.
Morgan Griffith represents the Ninth District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.