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Standing under “The Signing of the American Con­sti­tution” painting, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Ut., intro­duced an ini­tiative to revive Article I of that doc­ument at the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and Cit­i­zenship Feb. 3.

“The American people are hurt when Con­gress refuses to do its job, out­sources its job, del­e­gates it job over to the exec­utive branch,” Lee told the Col­legian. “The American people become less pow­erful. Their voice doesn’t matter as much when Con­gress doesn’t do its job.”

The Article I Project, known as A1P, aims to place the supe­ri­ority of the federal gov­ernment into the leg­islative branch again, returning that power to those who are directly elected by and accountable to the people. Through new leg­is­lation and rein­stating tra­di­tional regular order, two sen­ators and eight rep­re­sen­ta­tives will try to recover Con­gress’ authority with infor­mation and research from Hillsdale College.

“I cer­tainly hope Hillsdale College can be a resource to us and provide us with influ­ential insight,” Lee said. “Hillsdale College is an insti­tution ded­i­cated to the prin­ciples of good gov­ernment and of a con­sti­tu­tionally limited gov­ernment. It makes it a good fit, as well.”

Lee and Rep. Jeb Hen­sarling, R-Texas, are leading this Repub­lican, bicameral ini­tiative that looks to reclaim the power of the purse and budget, take back authority over reg­u­lation, and redefine stan­dards of exec­utive dis­cretion by drafting new laws. They also look to reform omnibus bills and “cliff” leg­is­lation that threaten gov­ernment shut­downs.

“It’s been this gradual building real­ization ever since I’ve gotten here seeing how the deep the problem really runs,” Lee said. “The fact that most laws are no longer made by Con­gress, that creates all types of problems.”

One such piece of leg­is­lation is the One Subject at a Time Act by Rep. Mia Love, R-Ut. It aims to ban the attachment of unre­lated and con­tro­versial leg­is­lation onto must-pass bills.

“Outside interests pin their hopes to stronger host leg­is­lation. This leaves voting members of Con­gress to either vote yes and accept a pyrrhic victory or vote no and throw the baby out with the bath­water,” Love said to the Col­legian in an email.

“My bill would ensure every leg­islative issue is forced to stand on its own legs, and every member of Con­gress is held accountable for his or her actions,” Love said. “And it would also ensure that we, as leg­is­lators, are the only ones deciding what to spend tax­payer dollars on instead of just signing off on the deci­sions of outside groups.”

Addi­tionally, the rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­ators look to reestablish regular order, the sequence of steps that Con­gress uses to make, debate, and pass or reject leg­is­lation and appro­priate funds. Matthew Spalding, asso­ciate vice pres­ident and dean of edu­ca­tional pro­grams for the Kirby Center, said Con­gress has moved away from regular order because of its del­e­gation of powers to the exec­utive branch.

“There’s an increasing recog­nition that that’s the problem,” Spalding said. “The most important key to that is rebuilding a strong Con­gress that under­stands leg­islative respon­si­bil­ities.”

In the meantime, the Kirby Center is working with Repub­lican House lead­ership and members working on A1P.

“The Kirby Center is an extension of Hillsdale’s teaching mission,” Spalding said. “We’re inter­ested in reviving con­sti­tu­tional gov­ernment and encour­aging those who would like to do so but also teaching them the best way to think about con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions.”

Hillsdale will con­tribute to and push forward dis­cus­sions by holding events and smaller working groups at the Kirby Center in addition to pro­viding rel­ative infor­mation.

“We have studied the Con­sti­tution and the way of gov­erning it estab­lishes since the beginning of the college,” Pres­ident Larry Arnn said in an email. “Now there is a new way of gov­erning, with dif­ferent objects, and we have studied that, too. We seek to make the con­trast known. These are big sub­jects, and we may be wrong about them, but we take care not to be.”

Lee said two stacks of papers in his office inspired A1P about a year ago. One with only a couple hundred pages is the laws Con­gress passed last year while the other, which is 11-feet tall with 80,000 pages, con­tains the federal reg­u­la­tions issued.

“Both sets of doc­u­ments impose binding oblig­a­tions on the American people,” Lee said. “The dif­ference is that the small stack is passed into law by elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the people.”

Lee said having elec­tions makes those in Con­gress accountable to the American people while admin­is­trators in the exec­utive branch are not.

“Minute by minute we have seen Con­gress del­e­gating its law­making power to the exec­utive branch bureau­cracy that has dimin­ished the account­ability of the federal gov­ernment to the people,” Lee said. “It hurts Amer­icans.”

Spalding said this out­sourcing of power dates to the days of pro­gres­sivism, beginning in the late 1800s when the country was growing in size and com­plexity.

“The original moti­vation was effi­ciency and admin­is­tration,” Spalding said. “What is has become is really a mess of vast and extensive reg­u­la­tions in every aspect of our lives.”

More recently, however, the debate has returned its focus to the sep­a­ration of powers that have gone “out of wack,” Spalding said. He ref­er­enced the debates leading up to the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., for speaker of the House in October.

“The debate was driven by a push by con­ser­v­a­tives to get the majority to focus on leg­islative powers, bal­ancing budgets, being fis­cally respon­sible,” Spalding said. “The fact that you have a speaker, who at least intel­lec­tually rec­og­nizes that, opens this dis­cussion.”

A1P, however, requires more than Con­gress’ approval, Spalding said.

“When it comes to leg­is­lation, it is highly doubtful any­thing will occur until the next pres­ident is in office,” Spalding said. “What you’re doing is setting up and defining the things that would be focused on in the next admin­is­tration.”

Lee said the pres­ident must read the Con­sti­tution and believe in its struc­tures of fed­er­alism and sep­a­ration of powers, which the national gov­ernment has neglected, in order that A1P suc­ceeds.

“It needs to be somebody who has a strong com­mitment to the Con­sti­tution itself, someone who will honor his or her oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Con­sti­tution,” Lee said.

Lee said he sees those attributes in his col­leagues and GOP pres­i­dential con­tenders Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.

“I believe they are devoted to restoring those pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tution that have been neglected, over­looked over the course of many years,” Lee said.

Until a new admin­is­tration comes, Lee said he and his col­leagues will work on cre­ating bills that return the superior power to Con­gress as the Founders intended when signing the Con­sti­tution.

Love said she thinks the leg­is­lation will be suc­cessful.

“Just by raising awareness of our current problems and getting people to talk about them, I think we’re having a level of success. But there’s also a clear appetite for real change in the elec­torate,” Love said. “I think there’s a good chance our bills will pass.”

 

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: bnoble1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @RightandNoble