WASHINGTON, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden remarks on the House floor opposing House Democrats’ proxy-voting plan.
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As Prepared for Delivery
We are in unprecedented times, and unprecedented times do call for unprecedented actions. But using these times to smash a wrecking ball into the foundation of democratic lawmaking by making government more remote, more isolated from the people, by dramatically centralizing even more power with those few at the top in the Majority, while giving the reins of the House to fewer than 25 Members who show up to vote with proxies, seems like a return to Boss Politics.
This is not to say there’s never room for improvement to the way this House conducts the people’s business, Mr. Speaker.
Ten years ago, I led the transition effort for House Republicans, and we looked at ways we could modernize Congress and improve its operations. But I knew these were matters not to be taken lightly, and we needed an inclusive, bipartisan approach. I took great care to solicit input from my Democrat colleagues – I even placed suggestion box outside the transition office!
What we did was good work. Changes were relatively small, but the process was robust.
Unfortunately, the reverse is true of this proposal.
Regular order, accountability, transparency, and, for the most part, bipartisanship – these are the words that have governed the Energy and Commerce Committee – Republicans and Democrats.
As the Republican Leader of the Energy & Commerce Committee I am concerned about what this proposal means for the committees.
How do we preserve the rights of all Members, on both sides of the dais, from top to bottom as we Zoom through hearings and markups?
How do we preserve the integrity of the proceedings?
What if there is a technology failure, or what if someone makes a mistake using the technology, like accidently muting another Member or themselves? Haven’t we all – by now – experienced the inadequacies of video conferencing?
No serious legislator can believe that remote meetings, hearings, and markups are improved by these changes.
Moreover, this rules’ change further de-humanizes our processes. We all know social media has become a cancer on civility. Further distancing members will not improve our relationships. Think of what gets worked out between members here on the Floor, or in the committees. We need more bipartisan dialogue in this country – not less.
So, I urge my Democratic colleagues to withdraw this proposal and work with us on changes that preserve the great democratic traditions of the House that will work in this challenging time.