Remember when Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) was asked to identify what part of the Constitution empowers the federal government to force Americans to buy health insurance, and he replied: “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this to be honest.” Remember when Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) told his Hayward, Calif., constituents that “The Federal government can, yes, do most anything in this country.” And remember when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), famously said of Obamacare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

The progressives that controlled the 111th Congress simply had no respect for the limitations on federal government power that the Founders placed in the U.S. Constitution. That is why 56% of last week’s voters told the national exit poll that “government is doing too much.” That is why progressives no longer control the House. But there are still progressives in the White House. In just the past year, the federal agencies under President Barack Obama’s control have already promulgated 43 new rules which the Obama administration itself estimated will cost the U.S. economy $26.5 billion a year. And President Obama is just getting warmed up. The 2,319 page financial regulation bill requires 243 new formal rule-makings by 11 different federal agencies. The 2,700 page Obamacare bill contains more than 1,000 instances where Congress instructed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to regulate the health care industry. And the Federal Communications Commission is considering implementing, for the first time in the history of the Internet, “net neutrality” regulations that will undermine investment incentives, thereby robbing the nation of much-needed broadband upgrades.

The federal government is out of control. Congress must immediately reestablish legislative accountability by posting complete legislation, ending earmarks, reviewing all unauthorized programs and respecting constitutional limits on government. Congress must check executive branch overreach with aggressive oversight, roll back recent government interventions, stop unnecessary administrative regulations and sunset new ones, restrict bureaucrats’ rulemaking authority and override expansive executive orders. Specifically, Congress must:

  • Provide Legislative Text: Each House of Congress must adopt a rule requiring the public posting of the text of each bill and major amendment not less than 72 hours before floor debate on that bill or amendment.
  • Stop Earmarks: Congress must permanently end the earmarking process which favors local pork projects over the national interest.
  • End Automatic Funding: Any program (other than for physical protection of Americans) that Congress has not reauthorized must be suspended for review. Committees must not be permitted to create new programs with automatic funding or that specify minimum funding levels to circumvent the appropriations process.
  • Reassert Constitutional Limits: Rather than deferring to courts, Congress must promptly repeal any unconstitutional legislation enacted by previous Congresses, consider the constitutionality of pending bills and assert constitutional limits on the size and scope of government.
  • Stop Unnecessary Regulations: Congress must use the Congressional Review Act to stop new and unnecessary regulations. If the President blocks such action, Congress must use appropriations riders to prohibit agencies from adopting such rules.

Conservatives must pay close attention to what this Congress does and be prepared to hold leaders accountable. That is why The Heritage Foundation has created the Solutions for America: Get to Work checklist. Getting Control of Government is one of the five essential tasks Congress must complete to fulfill its electoral mandate. You can download and print all of the “Get to Work” fact sheets and checklist here.

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