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What Happened To The Contract With America?

Tigerhawk notes that the federal government would flunk Sarbanes-Oxley.

Part of the Contract With America that the 1994 Republicans ran on (and won with) was that any law that was applied to Americans should also apply to Congress. My dim recollection was that this passed, but I can't find any evidence of it on line. So did it, or didn't it? If it did, shouldn't the financial crisis apply? If not, why not, and why shouldn't it be part of John McCain's new contract with America?


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Michael Kent wrote:

It passed, but it was slightly different than you remember it.

The Contract With America was a House document created by Congressmen -- it didn't apply to the Senate or Senators. It had three sections 1) a preamble, 2) a set of eight proposed rules for the House of Representatives promised to be enacted on the first day of the new Republican majority, and 3) a set of ten bills promised to be voted on within the first 100 days.

The part that you're asking about -- that the laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply to the Congress -- was in the second section. Since House rules apply only to the House of Representatives, the Senate was even then not bound by them. And since House rules are not binding on future Congresses, they can be and are changed every two years when each new Congress is sworn in. Rules often change drastically when the house changes parties.

The backstory behind the rule is that the Congress is loate to give the executive branch any authority over it (witness the commotion created when the FBI raided William "Cold Cash" Jefferson's office). Since it is an executive branch function to enforce laws, Congress often writes into bills specific exemptions for themselves so they won't be subject to executive branch jurisdiction. There are dozens of such exemptions spread over a wide range of environmental, labor, OSHA, and other laws.

Since the House cannot by itself repeal these laws, what the Republicans did on their first day in power was to pass a series of rules establishing a House-based oversight committee tasked with enforcing on the House about a dozen or so environmental, OSHA, and labor laws previously exempted. These laws were specifically listed in the rules if you care to dig them up. The rules in the Contract With America could not possibly apply to Sarbanes-Oxley since SOX didn't even exist at the time.

You'd have to look at the current House rules to see if anything similar is there. I doubt it. After all, the Contract With America was a reaction to the way the Democrats ran the House in 1994, and Speaker Pelosi is far more partisan and corrupt than Speaker Wright ever was.


The GOP won its first round of reforms, bringing about the surpluses in the annual budget, but Team Clinton won the second round with effective demagoguery (e. g. lying about the Republicans wanting to cut Medicare, blaming them for Clinton's government shutdown - which had no effect on my life), and the GOP has since lost the courage to attempt reform ever again. Which is why their numbers started declining - since they didn't fight for us, we didn't fight for them.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 26, 2008 6:12 PM.

Solidarity was the previous entry in this blog.

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