In recent years, Congress failed to perform its most basic responsibility - listening to the American people. For too long those who controlled Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, took a top-down approach.
During the last session of Congress - under Speaker Nancy Pelosi - this top-down, closed-door mentality reached an all time high. There was zero open debate on the House floor. Lawmakers were blocked from offering ideas and amendments. Congress spent money the government doesn't have and failed to write a federal budget, as families and business tightened their belts.
Bills with real impacts on every American like ObamaCare and a cap-and-trade national energy tax were written in secret and jammed through the House of Representatives. In fact, during a 2010 speech to the National Association of Counties, Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously declared that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."
The American people deserve to see how their government works, read the bills Congress is considering and have their voices heard by those who represent them.
For the first time in several years, the closed cycle was broken as a bill to fund the federal government was considered.
Last year, Congress failed to pass bills to fund the federal government. As a result, the government is operating at last year's funding levels until March 4th, and another bill must be passed by Congress and signed into law. The House began the process of developing funding levels for the remainder of the year by passing a bill that ultimately aims to cut spending by over $100 billion.
During consideration of the bill, we saw a resurrected form of democracy - open discussion, full debate and Representatives going on the record with their voice and their votes.
Transparency was restored and open debate that makes our country a diverse representative republic was encouraged. More than 500 amendments were written. And, rather than rushing the bill though - debate stretched over several days as issues ranging from public broadcasting to foreign aid were considered.
While everyone doesn't agree on every part of the House-passed plan, the basic principle of allowing open debate followed by fair up-or-down votes is healthy for our country - it's what democracy is all about.
- Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.