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Thursday, March 1, 2012

David Dreier on Deliberative Democracy

Representative David Dreier (R-California), chair of the House Rules Committee, yesterday announced that he would retire from Congress at the end of his current term. Although it is common to criticize the institution, Dreier went out of his way to praise it:

Now, I take the unusual step of announcing it from here in the well of the House because I am a proud institutionalist. I believe that this institution is as great as it has ever been. Mr. Speaker, I announce it from here because, between the Rules Committee upstairs where you serve with me, Mr. Speaker pro tem, and the House floor, this is where the people of California sent me to represent them.
Now, as we look at the challenges that lie ahead, they are very, very great. I deliberated over this decision, and I have to say that 3 years ago I contemplated leaving at the end of that Congress, but ultimately made a decision that I wanted to continue to serve through this term. I wanted to do so in hopes that we would win the majority, with a goal of pursuing the four-point platform that I had always run on, that being the pursuit of a free economy, limited government, a strong national defense, and personal freedom. Mr. Speaker, I wanted to work with not just my Republican colleagues, but my Democratic colleagues as well, working in a bipartisan way to accomplish a number of things.
Now, I do believe, again, Mr. Speaker, that this is the greatest deliberative body known to man. We've got a great deal of work that lies ahead throughout this year. But I'm looking forward to following the Madisonian directive--that Members of Congress, after serving here, should go out and live with the laws that have passed. I will say that, as passionate as we've been pursuing a pro-growth jobs-creating agenda, I look forward to doing that myself as I move into the private sector next year.
Mr. Speaker, I will say that I want to express my appreciation. I want to express my appreciation, Mr. Speaker, to lots of people. Of course the volunteers, family and friends, supporters, and the people who have offered prayers for our country on a regular basis. I also want to, most important, express my appreciation, Mr. Speaker, to the people of California who, back in 1978, when I was 25 years old living in a dormitory at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, they gave me the nomination for my party, and it's been a very, very exciting time.
I also want to say, Mr. Speaker, that I express my appreciation to the very, very dedicated public servants in my office in California and my offices here in Washington for their commitment to do the best job possible to help me represent the people of California.

The reference to deliberation was appropriate. Throughout his career, Dreier has given a great deal of thought to the role of deliberation in the legislative branch.

Our chapter on Congress includes a Dreier quotation from Elizabeth Drew's 1996 book about the GOP takeover of Congress. In the Contract with America, House Republicans promised to bring a package of major bills to the House floor within the first 100 days of the session. "The thing that has troubled me about the whole Hundred Days concept is that we're trying to do too much too quickly.  We're going against the Founding Fathers. They wanted us to be deliberative."