Letter to Speaker Boehner: Keep Appropriations Open

Upon being elected Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) said, “Let’s do away with the concept of ‘comprehensive’ spending bills. Let’s break them up, to encourage scrutiny, and make spending cuts easier.” Speaker Boehner also became known for his phrase “let the House work its will.” The new speaker quite rightly believed the House should represent the will of the American people, even if that occasionally leads to chaos on the House floor.

Prior to Republicans taking over the House in the November 2010 elections, Democrats controlling the lower chamber refused to allow amendments to be attached to spending bills.  The House floor was tightly controlled, depriving Republicans and Democrats alike the ability to represent their constituents and offer serious amendments.  As noted In the House Republicans Pledge to America:

“By forbidding amendments on spending bills, Democrats have denied lawmakers the opportunity to tighten Washington’s belt and slash wasteful and duplicative programs. Structure dictates behavior, so we will let any lawmaker — Democrat or Republican — offer amendments to reduce spending.”

Last year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had their chance to offer, debate, and vote on hundreds of amendments. The first appropriations bill, set for a vote on the floor next week, will be under an open amendment process. However, it is unclear if Speaker Boehner and the rest of his leadership team – Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – are willing to entertain such an open process for the other 11 bills.

Some lawmakers are concerned that instead of allowing each appropriation bill to go through under an open rule, the latter bills will be subject to structured or closed rules. Even more alarming is the possibility appropriation bills could be packaged together in so-called mini-buses.  Remember, the Pledge also promised that the House would “advance major legislation one issue at a time.”

In a preemptive effort to hold his leadership accountable, Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) is circulating a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to implore them to keep the promise made in the Pledge to America by allowing for an open amendment process:

“This vision for an open, transparent spending process is not new – it is a return to the regular order which was discarded during four years of Democrat control of the House. The new Republican House majority came to Washington with a mandate from the American people to address this historic breakdown in spending controls and to stem the tide of spending and debt. We began that work by passing a responsible budget, bringing spending bills to the House floor individually and under open rules, and letting the House work its will.”

If House Republicans renege on their promise to allow an open appropriations process, the American people will be, once again, left in the dark as to the inner workings of their government. Lawmakers will be deprived of the opportunity to represent their constituents – some of whom may want more spending, while others want less.

That very public battle – more spending or less – disappears if we return to a closed amendment process.  The American people would have no way of knowing about wasteful and ineffective spending amendments buried in these massive appropriations bills. Things like the firefighter grant increase, which Fred Barnes called a “telling” vote because it highlighted many “House Republicans were part of the spending problem in Washington they vowed to correct.”

Congressman McClintock deserves credit for his serious and thoughtful attempt to hold his colleagues accountable. House Republicans cannot return to the ways of the Pelosi-led House, which is why we must maintain an open appropriations process.

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