Protect Democracy Applauds House Rules Committee for Bipartisan Hearing Examining Congressional Powers

We applaud the bipartisan efforts of the House Rules Committee, led by Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), to begin reasserting Congress’ critical oversight and authority over central functions of our government including war powers, funding, and national emergencies.  The committee leadership and its membership in both parties modeled bipartisan concern about restoring the institution of Congress to its proper role in our constitutional system. The process of the hearing, based on Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress recommendations, is a model for other committees to follow. 

The growth in executive branch power over recent decades has been, in part, due to Congress’s increasing neglect of its own authorities. But Congress’s role in our properly functioning government is central, which is why the Framers made Congress the first branch in Article I recognizing that “We the People” are sovereign and represented, first and foremost, by Congress. In turn, the President must “take care that the law” — written by Congress — “be faithfully executed.” 

Ranking Member Cole described the role of Congress, in his opening statement, in the Founders vision as “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.”

The hearing showed an emerging bipartisan consensus in several areas including sunsetting emergency actions, introducing stronger controls on Congressional appropriations of funds, and strengthening judicial review.

Protect Democracy has been working to limit executive overreach, and we believe that a strong Congress is the most effective way to accomplish that. Protect Democracy has been working with coalitions to reform the National Emergencies Act in the Senate and a broader reform effort to elevate Congress’s role in national security powers

In addition, Protect Democracy has engaged in litigation on these issues including:

  • El Paso v Trump, along with Stu Gerson, Larry Tribe, and the Niskanen Center, regarding President’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.
  • FOIA litigation related to the April 2017 bombing of the Al Shayrat airfiled in Syria. We FOIAed for the legal justification of the strike. 
  • FOIA litigation related to the January 2020 strike that killed Qasem Soleimani. We FOIAed for the legal justification of the strike, correspondence with Congress, and deliberation about correspondence with Congress.

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