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January 5th, 2011

Latham: Changing The Way Congress Does Business, Changing The Business Congress Does

By Congressman Tom Latham

Today marks the beginning of the 112th Congress and a new chapter in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives and our nation.  For too long, the U.S. House has forced a destructive and unpopular agenda on the American people and ignored its own rules whenever it was politically convenient.  But that all changes beginning today.  The 112th Congress is already showing that it means business by turning the people’s agenda into real legislation and bringing transparency and openness back to the House of Representatives.

The House gaveled into session today with a humbled and renewed sense of purpose and commitment to listening to the people and getting results.  The American people made it clear that the tax increases, out-of-control spending binges and massive borrowing of the last few years must end, and the principles of fiscal restraint must inform every decision made during the 112th Congress.

Among the first measures to be considered by the House will be a measure to cut congressional budgets by 5 percent, saving taxpayers around $35 million in the first year alone.  The resolution cuts the operating budgets of every office in the U.S. House of Representatives by at least 5 percent. While the savings are only a small fraction of total federal spending, it sends a strong message that Congress will diligently scour the federal government for places to save tax dollars – even if that means cutting lawmakers’ own budgets.  I’m pleased to announce the House Appropriations Committee, of which I’m a senior member and will serve as a subcommittee chairman, has gone even further and cut its own operating budget by 9 percent.

But that won’t be enough.  It’s imperative that Congress gives American families and small businesses the certainty and stability they need to begin growing the economy.  That certainty cannot exist without a responsible federal budget.  Americans who had to scale back their family’s own budgets throughout the past few years watched in frustration as the previous Congress failed to pass a budget resolution for the current fiscal year.  If the broken and neglected budgeting process of last year taught us anything, it’s that job growth and economic recovery won’t take hold until Washington gets serious about fiscal restraint.

For the last several years, the House’s most consequential legislation has emerged from backroom deals among party leaders who then strong-arm the bills to final passage.  With the beginning of the new Congress, we can wipe away that legacy of partisanship and restore the House of Representatives to the true legislative body it was intended to be.

This year, we’ll restore the legislative process that fell by the wayside during the previous Congress.  That means the regular committee process, which was so often bypassed by majority leadership during the last four years, will operate under open and transparent procedures that allow representatives from both parties to offer input.  Starting this month, the House of Representatives once again will be a legislative body, a forum where representatives from every district in America can propose ideas and conduct honest debates.  Starting this month, the House of Representatives once again will become the People’s House where the new Republican leadership will change the way Congress does business and change the business that Congress does.

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The Iowa Republican

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