As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:
Today’s original jurisdiction hearing covers what is in my view one of the most important issues facing Congress: the scope of Congress’ powers under Article One of the Constitution and the impact of separation of powers on governance.
I want first thank Chairman McGovern for arranging today’s hearing. Though the chairman and I disagree on a lot of things, the constitutional authority entrusted to Congress is not one of them. Indeed, we are both equally concerned about protecting Congress’ powers under Article One of the Constitution, and we are both equally concerned about the erosion of that authority over the past several decades. Though the shift has been gradual, Congress has not only ceded its authority at times, but presidents of both parties have also claimed powers that belong to the legislative branch.
The Constitution very clearly vests all legislative power in the Congress of the United States, and all executive power in the President of the United States. This was carefully crafted to create a system of checks and balances that prevents any one branch from becoming too powerful, and that allows our republic to thrive. So, why then has Congress, over the years, consistently allowed the reduction in its own authority?
I am hopeful that our witnesses today will shed some light on this and discuss where practices of the past went wrong.
With today’s hearing, we will hear from four experts who will allow us to put all of this into perspective. We will hear about the constitutional provisions affecting both the legislative and the executive power. We will hear testimony on the history of how this has all unfolded. And we will hopefully hear recommendations on what Congress can do to reclaim its authority.
At the end of this process, we may learn that there really is nothing specific Congress needs to do to reclaim and reassert its constitutional authority other than act decisively to do so and utilize the tools currently available to us. Or we may discover that substantive changes do need to be made. Either way, I am hopeful that Congress can act in a bipartisan manner to effectively use the legislative power should it choose to do so. Today’s hearing at the Rules Committee is an important first step in making that goal a reality.
Finally, I want to invite us all to remember and ponder this: when our Founders envisioned the “Grand American Experiment” and put pen to paper on the distribution and separation of government powers in the U.S. Constitution, they first described the powers entrusted to Congress on behalf of the American people. Indeed, perhaps the greatest power of the legislative branch established in Article I is how closely connected it remains to the views of our nation’s citizens.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for calling today’s hearing. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today and for sharing their insights and expertise with us. And I want to thank the staff on both sides of the dais for their hard work in putting this hearing together. Thank you, and I yield back.