- - Monday, December 5, 2022

A new majority will take control of the House in January after one of the most divisive majorities in American history led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The outgoing speaker broke numerous House rules and protocols as part of her effort to use the body as a partisan weapon to promote a far-left agenda and divert attention from addressing critical national priorities to launch political attacks against conservatives, including the 45th president of the United States. 

The new House leadership must act quickly to take America First steps to reverse the damage Mrs. Pelosi’s speakership did to the country and to restore the House as a body of, by, and for the American people. As part of an America First agenda, here are five steps the new Congress can take to end the political games and advance reforms to improve the daily lives of the American people.

1. Announce H.R. 1 Bill Will Be on Energy Security. Traditionally, the first piece of legislation in a new Congress is on a priority issue in a bill designated “House Resolution 1,” or H.R. 1. Since the vast majority of the American people believe our country — especially its economy — is on the wrong track, they expect quick action by Congress to improve their daily lives. This means that H.R. 1 should be a strong bill to secure American energy independence.

The new House speaker should announce in the first week of the new Congress his intention to pass a bill in 30 days that reverses President Biden’s destructive energy policies and the war on fossil fuels that have caused U.S. energy prices to soar and devastated the U.S. economy. This bill should promote ways to make America energy independent by accelerating federal permits for energy projects, streamlining approvals for pipelines, transmission lines and critical energy infrastructure, mandating new onshore and offshore oil and gas lease sales, streamlining new nuclear reactor approvals and builds, accelerating liquefied natural gas production and export licenses, and ending the Biden administration’s war on affordable and reliable energy, including coal.

Although such a bill likely will attract bipartisan support, passing it will be difficult because of the divided Congress and the presidential veto. The new House majority should press forward to show that they put the interests of the people first and put on the record those who don’t.

2. Establish a Select Committee on China. The new House majority plans to establish a select committee on China to investigate the growing and existential threat to America from China and the Chinese Communist Party. This committee will reportedly investigate security, military, economic, intelligence, and intellectual property threats from China as well as the origins of the COVID-19 virus. Congress needs a comprehensive system to monitor and frustrate efforts by China and any other power seeking to exert a malign influence on it — this committee must also address this threat. A Select Committee on China should be formed, and a strong chairman to lead its efforts should be announced immediately.

3. Restore the Public’s Access to Congressional Offices. In my five years as a congressional staff member, I remember well the bustle of schoolchildren, church groups and other ordinary Americans walking the halls of congressional office buildings to meet with their elected representatives and see their nation’s Capitol. This was suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite the end of the pandemic, House and Senate leaders have refused to fully restore public access to congressional offices. Appointments are still required to enter congressional office buildings, and visitors must be escorted by a congressional staff member. It is no longer possible for a tourist visiting Washington to stop by their congressman’s office without an appointment.

I am pleased that the new majority has said they plan to reopen congressional office buildings when they are in the majority. This should happen on day one of the new Congress. If the House reopens its offices, the Senate will likely follow.

4. End Proxy Voting. Another sign of Mrs. Pelosi’s abusive leadership was her unprecedented decision to allow House members to vote remotely by proxy. This is another practice begun during the pandemic that House leaders continued well after it ended. Although intended as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it was widely misused to cast House votes while campaigning in their districts, taking vacations and working second jobs. One member admitted in August to casting House votes by proxy while vacationing in France. Another House member voted by proxy while working as a Hawaiian Airlines pilot.

In September, facing a difficult midterm election, Mrs. Pelosi extended proxy voting due to “a health emergency” until Nov. 10. She extended it again until Dec. 25, just before the new Congress is set to be sworn in. It is time to end such an obvious political abuse of House rules. The new House majority has pledged to end proxy voting in the new Congress. This should be done on day one. 

5. Address Committee Assignments and Comity Appropriately. As speaker, Mrs. Pelosi undermined comity in the House by breaking many long-standing rules and protocols. This included throwing Republican members off committees for political reasons and not allowing the House minority to choose its members on the Jan. 6 committee.

The speaker used the Jan. 6 committee as a political tool. This included a televised hearing on Oct. 13, just before the midterm election, and a subpoena of former President Donald Trump on Oct. 21.

Mrs. Pelosi’s hyperpartisan tenure as speaker will tempt many Republicans to seek payback against the new Democratic minority. I agree that there must be a strong response to Mrs. Pelosi’s abuses, but the new majority should find a way to do so while also restoring the House’s effectiveness and reputation. The new speaker should announce plans to do this in the first week of the new Congress.

I agree with Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s plan if he becomes the next speaker to remove Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee and Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

These are necessary moves. Mr. Schiff should be thrown off the Intelligence Committee for his extreme partisanship and misuse of the committee for impeachment hearings that seriously hurt congressional oversight of intelligence. Mr. Swalwell should also be thrown off this committee because of his personal, possibly romantic relationship with a Chinese spy.

Ms. Omar’s openly antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks disqualify her from overseeing U.S. foreign policy on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Beyond these three moves, I recommend the new House majority proceed with caution and emphasize healing the damage done to this body during Mrs. Pelosi’s speakership and not revenge.

This means treating the minority with respect and not excluding their members from House committees unless there is an extremely serious reason to do so.

The new House majority also should not engage in disrespectful behavior that demeans Congress, like Mrs. Pelosi’s tearing up of Mr. Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address while he was in the chamber. Members of the new majority must demonstrate to the American people that such behavior is unacceptable and that they are better than this.

This does not mean the new majority should not conduct aggressive investigations of the Biden administration, including the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. But it should allow the new minority to name whichever members it wishes to these investigations. There could be some rare exceptions, such as keeping Mr. Swalwell off the new Select Committee on China.

The new House majority will have a difficult road ahead of it. With such a small majority and a politically divided Congress, it won’t be easy to pass meaningful legislation. Bad feelings from the Pelosi speakership will be difficult to forget or forgive. But there are steps the new House majority can take in their first several weeks to put the interests of the people first and restore confidence in what Mrs. Pelosi often insincerely called “the People’s House.”

• Fred Fleitz is vice chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst, and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee staff.

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