House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) today led the unveiling of House Republicans’ plan aimed at restoring the people’s voice in Congress, “A Better Way to Do the People’s Business.” This is the fourth plank of A Better Way, Republicans’ bold agenda to tackle some of our country’s biggest challenges. McMorris Rodgers and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) were joined by House Republicans representing regions from across America during an event this morning in National Statuary Hall. Following this morning’s event, McMorris Rodgers released the following statement:
“The United States is the greatest experiment in self-governance the world has ever known,” said McMorris Rodgers. “But with self-governance comes the need for self-reflection. The American people are frustrated, because they’ve lost their voice. This fourth plank of the Better Way agenda is the most important one – it’s about reclaiming the power of the purse, representative government, and accountability on behalf of the American people in Eastern Washington and across the country. After all, that’s the promise of America.”
Below are McMorris Rodgers’s Remarks, as Delivered:
Welcome to National Statuary Hall.
Our history fills this chamber – our story as Americans.
It’s a story that’s told, in part, through these statues around us.
Farmers, inventors, and war heroes who stood up for what they believed or dared to dream big.
To them, it wasn’t about title. It wasn’t about job descriptions.
It was about writing their own individual stories about their own individual pursuits. Because they were all characters in a much larger story — a story of America’s promise.
What is America’s Promise?
It’s a promise that every man, woman, and child in America should have the freedom to pursue. A promise that no matter your background or your walk of life — you are free and empowered to choose your own unique version of the American Dream.
It is not a promise of perfection or a life without challenges, but it is a promise that you aren’t limited to where you finish because of where you start.
That’s the Promise of America.
We see this promise through the sculpture, architecture, and artwork all around us. After all, this is where the People’s House of Representatives first made its permanent home. Where many of the early chapters about our great experiment in self-governance were first written.
But even this place — right here — endured one of the earliest struggles to fulfill the American Promise, when it was engulfed in flames during the War of 1812.
You see, there has always been a challenge to America’s promise.
It’s the fundamental struggle between freedom and power that started on the very day our Declaration of Independence was signed. A struggle between trusting people to make the best decisions for themselves or a government who decides for them.
It’s not a Republican or Democrat struggle; it’s an American struggle.
And it touches the very core of who we are — men and women who have written a story for more than two-centuries about how together — “We the people” — win this battle to form a more perfect union.
At that moment in 1814, when our struggle was seen through the burning timbers and thick smoke in this room, it appeared that the promise of America had failed — that history had shown representative government was too weak to survive…that people couldn’t govern themselves.
…but, out of the ashes, rose our Capitol — a “temple of liberty” — where the promise continued and people – through their elected representatives – were central to its fulfillment.
Our Capitol, is home of the greatest inheritance our western civilization has to offer. It’s the greatest inheritance because it starts with people.
Here, in Congress, the people write the laws, assert the ultimate power over their government — and express their consent to be governed.
For thousands of years prior, the power to make law resided in Pharoahs and Tribal Chiefs. Caesars and Dictators. Kings and Queens.
Government was the realm of a few privileged, powerful people operating beyond the reach of the masses who were ruled.
But then came the United States of America, where a new start was made. A rag-tag group of believers seeking freedom from those who were trying to dream for them.
We rejected the idea that law is an instrument of special classes of better, or wiser, or more powerful rulers.
What started as a little promise “of the people, by the people, and for the people” grew into a great one.
But today, Americans are anxious.
Seniors fear retirement. Parents worry about the future success of their children. Students stress about finding careers to pay back their debt. Hard workers can’t compete with a tangled web of taxes, one-size-fits regulations, and arbitrary rules.
The reason they are so anxious and frustrated is because their voices aren’t being heard. They’re afraid they’re losing representative government – and the country they’ve known and loved.
Over time, Presidents have come to legislate by executive orders.
Over time, courts have come to make laws from the bench.
And we, Congress, in our desire to avoid complexities and conflict have ceded power in order to simplify the process of lawmaking.
And so we find ourselves again in the age-old struggle— a contest that will determine whether we shape our dreams, or whether others shape them for us.
The People’s House is the seat of representative democracy.
No other institution has such power because no other institution is as accountable to the people.
Presidents can veto. Supreme Courts can strike down. But Congress is the exclusive seat of lawmaking power. Not some guy in the basement of the Labor Department.
We must reassert that the people speaking through their elected is the best way to keep us free and protect our liberty to make sure the Promise of America exists for the next generation.
What you’ll find throughout history, is not much has changed — it’s the same historic, recurring struggle between freedom and power that the “Abraham Lincolns,” the “John Quincy Adamses,” and the “Daniel Websters” all faced. It’s the struggle between fulfilling the Promise of America or breaking it.
They knew the torch would one day be passed, where it now resides with us — the daughter of a cherry farmer from Kettle Falls, Washington….
…a nurse from Tennessee … a businessman from Texas … an Air Force chaplain from Georgia … an author from Utah … and a combat surgeon from Ohio…
It’s about this generation’s responsibility — right now — to cherish; to embrace; and to protect the fragile, carefully crafted American Promise that puts people in charge through their elected representatives.
It’s our call to put aside any personal ambition, so the next generation can have their individual power protected to freely pursue their own version of the American Dream.
Let’s use the power of the purse to make government bureaucracy more accountable to the people and less arrogant, so the IRS can’t target free speech and the EPA can’t regulate mud puddles.
Let’s do our job of reviewing, rethinking, and possibly eliminating government programs that are running on autopilot without oversight or authorization. So agencies like the VA operate their hospitals more like Cleveland Clinics.
Let’s hold unelected bureaucrats accountable when they interfere with the next innovative startup being created in a garage or with a scientist working to cure cancer in a lab.
Let’s make agencies more transparent and closer to the people. A government that operates more like Uber and Amazon and less like the DMV.
And – most importantly — let’s give people a voice through their elected representatives so a 19th Century institution can actually solve 21st Century problems.
So today, I am grateful — grateful for the efforts of my colleagues Chairmen Bishop; Chaffetz; Goodlatte; Rogers; and Sessions who spent the last six months thinking through how the People’s House can accomplish these goals on behalf of the men and women we represent.
And I’m inspired so many of my colleagues joined us this morning to answer the call from the people: to restore their voices in government and protect what our founders conceived: the most just system of government the world has ever known.
Our dreams and our aspirations belong to us. Not the government. Only we can push the heights of our imaginations. Not the government. We know the power of our own ideas. Not the government.
This is why freedom is so important.
It isn’t about political parties; personalities; or power — it never has been. It’s about making certain the Promise of America is never breached and knowing the only ones who can preserve it for future generations, are “We, the People.”
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