In hopes of improving the way Congress enacts laws, Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), Chairman of the Freedom Caucus, is cosponsoring H.J. Res. 25, a bill introduced by Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) in January 2017. The bill proposes adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit the practice of adding riders to bills. Riders, also known as earmarks, are unrelated provisions that cannot pass on their own merits. The bill would prohibit any legislation introduced in Congress from becoming law if it contains more than one subject. The bill’s subject must also clearly be expressed in its title.
Rep. Meadows said, “No matter where I travel in the United States, I always hear the same thing—the American people are fed up with business as usual and career politicians taking the lead in Washington. Too many hard working taxpayers felt forgotten by our government and they came out in historical numbers to elect an outsider as President of the United States. These bills help return our government to one truly for the people, by the people. It is well past time we get Washington back to work for the American people.”
Meadows also said of the amendment, “With the adoption of this amendment, appropriation bills can only be used to fund existing programs. No longer can riders, which add new programs, be added to appropriation bills, as new programs must go through the normal legislative process. Congress will be able to conduct its business in a more productive, efficient, transparent, and less acrimonious way with a single subject requirement.”
“Although forty-one state constitutions have a single subject provision, the U.S. Constitution has no similar provision,” said W. S. “Spider” Webb, Jr., Founder and CEO of Single Subject Amendment, the Super PAC organization behind the effort to end the practice of riders. “This provision works at the state level and will work at the federal level.” (For more information on Single Subject Amendment, visit SingleSubjectAmendment.com.)
The Freedom Caucus represents the most conservative of house Republicans, with about 31 libertarian and Republican members. Formed in 2015 by Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the Caucus is laser focused on returning the government to the structure originally created by the founders of the Constitution. But the Caucus has not been without controversy, so it remains to be seen if H.J. Res. 25 stands a chance of ever passing, even with Mark Meadows’ high profile endorsement.
The Caucus has been beleaguered with several failures in its negotiations with the White House and other Republican members of Congress who say Caucus members are too conservative. Both Republicans and Trump blamed them for defeating the Obamacare repeal bill. Although the group worked with the White House and got some conservative provisions added to the legislation, in the end the Caucus said the repeal bill was not adequate and failed to support it.
Despite the dust-up with Trump and other Republicans, the Freedom Caucus was instrumental in removing House speaker John Boehner in 2015, scoring points with conservatives who were unhappy that Boehner over-compromised with President Obama and the Democrats. And it was the Freedom Caucus that drafted articles of impeachment language against Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein as far back as May 2017.
“Adoption of this amendment will help Drain the Swamp and bring about better government for all,” said Peter Schweizer, Chairman of the Board of Advisors of Single Subject Amendment. “Routinely, important ‘must-pass’ legislation is surreptitiously overloaded by both political parties with completely unrelated provisions, that cannot otherwise pass. Adoption of this amendment will end this practice.”
The bill appears to have stalled out in the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice chaired by Bob Goodlette (R-VA). Subcommittee members include heavy Republican hitters Chairman Steve King (R-IA), Vice Chairman Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and outgoing and outspoken Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
Meadows endorsement on August 28, 2018 and a press release issued on September 19, 2018 may be the first sign that the bill will get some life breathed into it. But I’m a pragmatic person and in a Congress where neoconservatives are riding and hiding out their time until they can be rid of Trump, I don’t see the pork barrel going empty any time soon. The greasing of palms and elbow bending of our entrenched system of lobbyist and paid-for politicians won’t go quietly into the good night.
Libertarians in the Caucus face the same issues that have always kept them from being a major power party. Without the willingness to compromise in earnest and take small bites off the apple, the fruit is left to rot on the vine. Banning earmarks will take a lot more than draining the swamp, it will take a mammoth return to the core root of American governance. Still, I applaud both Marino and Meadows for sponsoring the bill. Who knows, maybe hell will freeze over? Reign well.