Let me be the first to thank Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Later this week, he will make some old bulls in the United States Senate very uncomfortable – and that is a good thing considering the Senate Establishment has never hesitated to expand government and spend taxpayer dollars. Senator Paul is planning to bombard a Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee markup with amendments -- many, many amendments. His target will be the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
As Vice President Biden would say, this is “a big [freaking] deal.”
It would be the ninth reauthorization of the 1965 law, which is the largest federal law governing K thru 12 education policy. The previous reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), cost taxpayers roughly $131 billion between 2005 and 2010. NCLB also significantly expanded the federal role in education, weakened state control and stifled innovation at the local level.
Enter Senator Paul, who is going to sit through a grueling markup and offer amendment after amendment to a terrible piece of legislation that the committee’s chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) drafted behind closed doors. Senator Harkin and President Obama have incorrectly interpreted the broad, bipartisan dissatisfaction with No Child Left Behind as a mandate to rewrite the law to further empower the federal government, albeit in different ways. The consequences of Senator Harkin’s proposal are sweeping and there is plenty to discuss in the 860-page bill.
In an era of diminished transparency and massive bills, a robust and well-planned amendment process is necessary. Senator Paul is taking on the “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” mentality that saddled our nation with Obamacare. Subjecting every line of any legislation to discussion and amendment is one of the most important ways conservatives can begin reining in our government’s excesses.
Committee amendments are also one of the only ways conservatives can amend or even get a vote on legislation in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made a disturbing habit of blocking most amendments that conservatives want to bring to the Senate floor. He is allowing approximately 1 amendment for every 2.7 amendments Republicans allowed when they last controlled the Senate. Two weeks ago Senator Reid unilaterally moved to change the Senate rules – the so-called “nuclear option” – to make it even more difficult for Senators to offer amendments.