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#Freedom20 Rule Changes Make All in Congress Equal

William L. Kovacs

January 2023

#Freedom20 Rule Changes Make All in Congress Equal

With the drama of electing Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House and approving new rules for the operation of the House, it is time to make Congress work. Thanks to the courage of twenty members of the Freedom Caucus (“# Freedom 20”), the overall effect of the new rules is the restoration of the most fundamental constitutional right of elected representatives, the right of all members to participate, on an equal basis, in the legislative process.

The rights of all members to fully function as legislators had been taken away by Speaker Pelosi, who legislated in small, secret groups. She knew knowledge was “power.” She used her power to manipulate the legislative process by bringing multi-thousand-page bills to the floor without giving members the ability to read the proposed law or the right to offer amendments. Pelosi treated backbenchers as lemons.

Now, as the hard work of legislating begins. Conservatives should never forget  “No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” This point is critical since real conservatives have fought excessive spending and increasing national debt for decades, but their efforts have many times been thwarted by Republicans who spend just as much, or more, than Democrats. Based on fiscal year spending, Republicans are bigger spenders than Democrats.

The necessity of member participation. Since every member of Congress is elected by a congressional district of similar size, the average number being 761,169 people, each member should have similar rights to represent the legislative needs of their districts in Congress. Those rights include the right to know what they are voting on and to offer amendments to change bad legislation.

Through a combination of Rules changes and commitments from the Speaker, members will have 72 hours to read legislation before they must vote on it. And, if the legislation is only on one subject, it will be more understandable to them and the American people. All legislators will have the right to offer amendments to cut spending as opposed to being forced to endlessly increase it.  Additionally, special interest riders will need a two-thirds vote for approval. There were 7,200 legislative riders in the $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Act.

Putting conservatives on the Rules Committee makes them part of the legislative process.  The #Freedom 20 secured the Speakers’ commitment to appoint three real conservatives to the House Rules Committee. If honored, it will give conservatives real input on what is debated on the floor of the House. If the Speaker does not keep his promises, any member can move to remove him.

 Every member of the House is now responsible for addressing the national debt. Now the #Freedom 20 and every member of Congress can run the government for the people, not the special interests. That will be an extremely difficult task. Jimmy Carter left office in 1980 with a $997 billion national debt. Today after four Republican and three Democrat presidents, the national debt is $31 trillion. As the great philosopher Pogo (a comic strip character) stated, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Congress must recognize it created this spending and debt problem. Congress is responsible for addressing it. That said, the #Freedom 20 needs to convince many more members of the House and likely most of the Senate to attend “Spenders Anonymous.” Already, Republicans are on cable tv objecting to cuts in the military. If one department can be left off the table, all departments will be left off the table.

Since a point of order is merely the opening act, conservatives need to do the hard work of proving to spenders the need for budget cuts and debt reductions. Soon the #Freedom 20 will find that a “Point of Order” is great theater but is easily dismissed by a majority of spenders. For over two decades, the Congressional Budget Office identified hundreds of billions of dollars in congressional funding for thousands of expired authorizations stemming from hundreds of expired laws. All points of order were overruled.

In its last report, the CBO identified $461 billion in congressional funding for 1,118 expired authorizations stemming from 442 expired laws. House Rule XVI already prohibits such appropriations; however, the House merely voted to wave the rule and fund the expired programs.

Now, however, with the empowerment of all members and a rule that requires all committees to review expired programs, each Republican member of the House should agree to review five expired laws to determine whether they should be reauthorized, amended, or let lapse and report their recommendations to the committee chair. Such a review would analyze the entire list of 1118 expired laws that are being funded. It is a chance to immediately save almost one-half trillion dollars.

The #Freedom 20 also secured the right to offer a “Balance Budget Amendment” and a Constitutional proposal to impose term limits on members of Congress. These are two significant issues that most members of Congress would like to ignore. Most members of Congress want their privileged positions for life. Without accountability, however, members of Congress are free to do as they choose and still be reelected. Over 90% of incumbents are reelected, a percentage similar to the reelection rate for the Russian Duma.

There is some camouflage in the new rules. The select committees do not have subpoena power, which must be approved by the chairman of the relevant standing committee. The select committees, however, can waive the 5-minute rule on questioning witnesses, a huge benefit in seeking the truth. They can also make legislative recommendations.  Unfortunately, these select committees will have less investigative power than the Democrats’ infamous “January 6th” select committee.

 The real dark and cold reality facing the #Freedom 20 is the Senate. The Senate cares little about members of the “lower” House. The Constitution created the Senate to represent states, not people. Notwithstanding the XVII Amendment, Senators view themselves as closer to deity status than commoners in Congress. Even Republican Senators,  want to distribute taxpayer money to special interests. Eighteen Senators supported the Democrats’ passage of the most recent 4000-page, $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Act.

The House needs to find leverage that makes the Senate take it seriously. This standoff brings us to the very brutal part of politics. In the final analysis, the #Freedom 20, or the House in general, has only two ways to leverage its power. The House can refuse to increase the debt limit unless it receives concessions. This tactic forces the Senate to confront the debt reality, but it puts every member of the #Freedom 20 at risk of causing an economic calamity. Democrats and many Republican Senators will run to the cameras to call the House members crazy, insurrectionists or anarchists.

The second option is simply to refuse to appropriate money for items of concern to the Senate or the administration until debt concessions are made. The is no provision of the Constitution or any law that requires any member of the House to appropriate money. This approach will require waiting for the next round of appropriations.  A possible first step would be to refuse to appropriate money to fund a federal agency important to the big spenders. My nomination would be the Department of Education. It is the most important agency to Democrats and is owned by their biggest donors, teachers’ unions. Democrats will make concessions to save that Department for the unions.  House Republicans should be able to agree on defunding an agency they never wanted.

As the 118th Congress unfolds, the American public will discover if the #Freedom 20 and Republican House have crossed the Rubicon or whether they are merely taking a siesta on its banks.





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  • Could the House of Representatives Select the Next POTUS?

Could the House of Representatives Select the Next POTUS?

William L. Kovacs

March 2020

Could the House of Representatives Select the Next POTUS?

After the Sanders big primary win in Nevada last week, Democrats are deeply split on a nominee and again, may not be willing to accept the candidate voters select. Billionaires are promising to spend whatever money needed to defeat President Trump. President Trump insists on inflicting political wounds on himself. Millions of people are moving out of blue states, to red states, which changes the composition of voting populations. Quirky Constitutional provisions apply if no candidate secures 270 electoral votes.

We are facing the possibility of the next President being selected by the House of Representatives. This has happened twice before, 1800 and 1824.

How might this happen?

First: another rigged Democratic convention. The Sanders’ campaign and its supporters are still angry over losing the 2016 nomination to Hillary Clinton. In the fight for the 2016 nomination the Clinton campaign literally bought the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) by paying off the party’s large debt. This gave the Clinton campaign control of the staff and final decisions of the DNC, notwithstanding that the DNC was obligated to remain neutral in the primary. Should Sanders go into the 2020 convention with the largest number of delegates, and again be denied the nomination, a political civil war erupts in the Democratic party.

Second: if Sanders is denied the nomination a second time, he runs on the Green Party ticket or as an Independent.  Sanders, like President Trump, has aggressively loyal followers. To quote an opinion article in the New York Post, “Hell hath no fury like Bernie’s millennials if they are thwarted.”  Like President Trump, Sanders is taking on the establishment as a political outsider. With this loyalty from supporters that constitutes 30% plus of the Democratic base, decades of fighting the establishment, strong credentials with environmental groups, especially on climate change, and a having a great money raising machine, Bernie Sanders can quickly launch a viable third-party movement. This is all possible since the Green Party convention is July 9-12, 2020 while the Democratic Convention is July 13-16, 2020. Sanders will know of his chances for the nomination by then and could quickly switch parties.

Third: Sanders can win several states and secure electoral votes. Sanders won eight states in the 2016 primary that Democrats won in the general election. Of these states, Sanders won NH, VT, ME, RI and WA with over 60% of the vote. These states have 26 electoral votes. Winning a few of these states could, in a close election, deny the Democrats the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

Fourth: California’s population loss could be the Republican’s albatross. California has lost over 691,000 people in 2018. Texas was the destination of choice by 86,164 people followed by Arizona 68,516, Washington, 55,467, Nevada, 50,707. Oregon, Colorado, Florida, New York, Virginia and Idaho were also recipients. These new residents bring their liberal beliefs with them. Arizona is the key state having 11 electoral votes. Trump won Arizona in 2016 by 91,000 votes while Krysten Sinema, a Democrat, won the Senate seat in 2018 by 56,000 votes. These new 68,516 transplants in Arizona could give the electoral college votes to a Democrat. Also Trump won four of the larger states by small margins, i.e. Michigan (0.3%), Wisconsin (1%), Pennsylvania (1.2%), Florida (1.2%). These margins are so small that they can be impacted by the placement of the candidate’s name on the ballot, i.e. being listed first is a 5% advantage.

Fifth: with, at least, 37 uncertain electoral votes, a third-party winning only a few of them, is eligible, to be selected president by the House of Representatives. If none of the candidates receive 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the next President. The House will choose from the top three candidates receiving electoral votes. In this case, each state delegation in the House of Representatives, has one vote. In the current Congress, 26 state delegations are controlled by Republicans, 23 by Democrats and one state delegation (Pennsylvania) is a 50-50 split. But the current Congress will not decide the matter. The newly elected members to the House of Representatives in November 2020 will make that decision when the 117th Congress starts in January 2021.

Sixth: the variables cannot be controlled.  With an almost even split between state delegations, the migrants from California and other blue states might make a big difference, depending on which congressional districts they move to. Moreover, the Constitution does not bind electors to vote in accordance with the winner of their state’s vote. This freedom is limited in 32 states however, in 18 states the elector is free to vote however, it desires. In several restriction states, there is no penalty for voting against the candidate their state, i.e. FL, OH, WI. Finally, the ballots cast to determine the position of each state’s delegation are secret ballots and none of the members of Congress have any obligation to vote party line.

If none of the candidates secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, it will be a very unpredictable process, especially if a third-party candidate receives electoral votes, making the candidate eligible for election by the House. The outcome will be determined by who moves to what congressional districts and which Republicans, Democrats or Independents, like or dislike, the President enough to vote for a for the candidate of another party.

Such a situation would be the epitome of intrigue!

This article was first published in The Libertarian Republic,  February 26, 2020.