The conservative lawmakers launched the Article I Project to encourage Congress to reflex old constitutional muscles and push against executive overreach.
Standing beneath a painting of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling unveiled their Article I Project to revitalize Congress.
Appealing to the memory of the Founders pictured, the Republican duo said Wednesday their project is meant to encourage the legislative branch to reflex old constitutional muscles and to reassert traditional “congressional primacy.”
“The federal government is broken,” Lee told an audience at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, D.C.
And in the Utah Republican’s estimation, the problem isn’t just with President Obama. Instead, Congress has surrendered its own authority to the executive branch and unelected regulators.
Lee and Hensarling want Congress to exercise its authority as outlined in Article I of the Constitution and retake its “first among equals” status among the three branches of government.
Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Service Committee, blames Congress for allowing regulators to do its job of lawmaking. As a consequence, he said government has become:
a leviathan that has metastasized into the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, and lender; its largest employer, property owner and tenant; its largest insurer, health care provider and pension underwriter.
The two lawmakers’ bicameral Article I Project aims to reverse that growth during a period of “congressional rehabilitation” according to a regimen of their conservative interpretation of constitutional principles.
The organizers of the project promise specific and structural reforms will follow. But in broad strokes, Lee said, it would focus on four areas “at the core of Washington, D.C.’s broken status quo:”
First, reclaiming Congress’ power of purse; second, reforming legislative cliffs; third, reasserting congressional authority over regulations and regulators; and finally, curbing executive discretion.
Lee and Hensarling seemed bullish that if Congress fixed itself, it could fix the problems they identify with the federal government. But that requires “hard work and accountability,” Lee said, things that lawmakers find “inconvenient.”
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