Omnibus Bills, Election Laws, Cicero, And More – On Foundations Of Freedom: Why are bills proposed by Congress not germane in their scope? What is the real reason for government shutdowns? How were state officials able to change voting protocols? How do we prevent government overreach in our state elections? Who was Cicero and why does it matter? What did the Founders study in school? Tune in to hear the answers to these questions and much more on today’s Foundations of Freedom program!
Air Date: 05/27/2021
Guest: Jonathan Richie
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Faith and the Culture
Abraham Lincoln said. “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts; not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
WallBuilders Live. Welcome to the intersection of faith in the culture. This is WallBuilders Live, we’re talking about the hot topics of the day from a biblical, constitutional, and historical perspective. And Thursdays, that’s what we call Foundations of Freedom Thursday, it’s a chance to dive into those foundational questions, and you get to ask the question. So please send them in to us [email protected], that’s [email protected], and we’ll get to as many of those as we can.
Today, we are here with David Barton. He’s America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders, Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders, and my name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. Check us out at wallbuilderslive.com, where you can get archives of the program, a list of the stations across the country, and some other great information there.
And also, you can make a one-time or monthly contribution right there at the homepage wallbuilderslive.com. Thanks for coming alongside us. And also share the program by the way. Take this program today, take that link, put it out there on social media, become a force multiplier and help to educate and inspire the people in your life.
Foundations of Freedom
David, Tim, you guys ready, It’s foundation to freedom Thursday. So let’s dive into some questions.
Let’s do it.
Okay, first one is coming from Rebecca. She said “Please, please, why are bills in our congress not limited in their scope to one main topic? Why are attachments allowed? We would not be in the current situation of all things being rammed through, if one subject at a time was addressed. What is the historical background of the nature of bills like this? Please let me know where I can find the answer to this question. I have never heard any comment on this matter. It seems as if we all just accept this way of doing business in Congress.” And I can’t find it. I actually, that was a little Texas slang I threw in there. She said “Correctly, I cannot find anything on the subject. Please help.”
Alright, guys, so we would call this in the Texas Legislature back in the day, whether or not a subject was germane, you couldn’t add to a bill all these other things unless it was germane. But apparently there’s nothing like that at the federal level, so they load these bills up like Christmas trees.
Yeah. And if we had a federal germaneness rule, we would have a much, much, much more limited government. If you actually had to have a bill dealing with a single issue instead of having a Christmas tree bill, or what they also call an omnibus bill, an omnibus bill is where we have seen so much change come to America through additions of amendments on the bills that have nothing to do with that bill.
We’ve talked before about how that the measure to allow homosexuals in the military went through in a spending bill. But that’s a military defense bill. Yeah, but that was the issue. In the same way, the way they added hate crimes was also a military defense bill. Hate crimes didn’t have anything to do with that, they just add anything on.
The “COVID” Relief Package With Hardly Any Covid Relief
Or at the same time when you have President Biden in his COVID relief package that is more than $2 trillion and less than 9% of the $2 trillion is actually spent on things related to COVID, and less than 1% was on vaccines, and so it’s the same kind of thing. You’re seeing titles be given to bills that how can you oppose this title, this is a positive thing. But as you guys mentioned, because there’s not this germane rule that has to apply to that, it gets spread so far beyond that.
And guys, we’ve seen in the last decade, we’ve seen Republican congressmen and senators come out and say we need to do a germane kind of bill, where it needs to be a single bill, that this is what it’s about, and that you can’t add other things on to it. And that’s not normally very favorably viewed by other congressmen, by other senators, because they recognize sometimes the easiest way to get things done is to add it to something that people don’t want to oppose.
And so dad, you’ve mentioned before things with military spending bills, and a lot of times when there’s a Republican Congress, Republican president and people favor the military, there will be additions made to military defense authorization acts, and people will try to add that on, because if you vote against it, you’re voting against the military.
How dare you vote against the military? When the reality is, many of the people that would vote against it aren’t voting against funding the military, they’re voting against all the other things they got added on to it. So certainly, we’ve seen this be a problem in many of the last decades.
But it’s an interesting question of where did this start? Because certainly, it’s not what the Founding Fathers intended. So how did we get from where they intended this to where we are today?
Well, it’s a real lack of integrity problem. I mean, the Founding Fathers intended a lot of things that Congress ignores today, or at least the Democrat majority in Congress ignores. And one of the things I’ll point to is budgeting. The Founding Fathers had a budget from the very beginning.
We own in the WallBuilders collection a printing of the very first draft of the very first federal budget when George Washington was president. And by the way, that draft of the budget is about one half of the front page of a newspaper. The budget…
A Very Big Budget
And the newspaper is not the full size newspaper, we see today?
I mean, really, it would fit on a page smaller than 8.5 by 11, which is a standard printer page that you’d print on. So it’s definitely not a very big budget. So even back then the newspapers are much smaller than what somebody might imagine today. But that was their proposed budget for the very first budget of the United States of America.
Now, the Trump budget, the last one he had was 2,500 pages long, but at least he had a budget. And this is the problem we’ve had with Democrats over the last 12 to 15 years, is it’s been more than a decade since Democrats have come forward with the budget. Now federal law requires that you have a budget for each session of Congress.
They don’t do that. They wait until the government shuts down, then they have a government shutdown and they say, oh, we got to make government operate, because look at all these 2, 3, 4 million people out of jobs. And then they come through and add every single thing they can think of.
Tim, like you said, the COVID relief bill, I mean, it’s got everything in there except COVID relief, essentially, or at least that’s a small part of it. So they come through, and they also use what’s called sequestration, where that not only did they add everything onto a non-budgeted bill for spending, but they cut out the things they don’t want like defunding the military, defunding police or whatever, it doesn’t go through the budget process. They bypass the law to get this done.
And as you mentioned, that sometimes the Democrats want the government shutdown, Democrats are the ones generally not in favor of the shutdown. The reason the shutdown happens is because they will propose, hey, let’s increase all of our spending, not even go back and review it.
Whatever we spent last year, let’s increase it for this year. And that’s just part of the cost of living increase kind of thing is what they would argue. And Republicans, many of them go, no, guys, this is ridiculous, we need to review this, we shouldn’t do this.
And so Republicans are often the ones leading the fight that leads to the shutdown of government. But in the midst of government being shut down, that’s where there’s arguments, that’s where there’s negotiations, and sometimes you do see a decrease from what was the proposed increase, instead of increasing the budget 11% or 12%, maybe it’s increased only 5% or 6%. But you don’t see a balanced budget.
And really, dad, you mentioned, you don’t really see a budget at all from any Democrat leader really over more than the last decade, but certainly not a balanced budget. And dad, as you mentioned, really, this does come down to a lot of people playing the game of politics, where they’re not going forward with integrity and trying to promote the value of what the actual bill is they’re doing.
They’re doing some underhanded dealing, which is why many people have such a distaste for politics. Because it, too often, is a game, the people that are there are not operating with character and integrity. They’re just playing the game to advance their agenda down the corridor, down the field. And that’s why a lot of the stuff gets added on to these bills.
The Very First Congress
Well, if you go back to the very first congresses, and even before we had the federal Congress, if you go to the Continental Congress, one of the primary operations in the Congress, one of the ways it operated was through committees. And so you would assign a committee who had look into something in depth. So you might have a committee on the military.
Or one of the things that they actually had a committee on back then was printing a Bible in America. And so they actually had a committee on that who investigated and looked at and said, yeah, we really need this.
So committees do a lot of the detailed work to see is this a need, is this a serious need, if it is, how should we address it? And so committees, that’s been key to Congress, was very first beginnings. And I think in Congress today, I think there’s like 19 major committees in Congress. And so you have a Defense Committee, and you’ll have Education Committee, you don’t have an Energy Committee, etc.
And that’s where the work is supposed to be done. But what they do is they ignore all the committee’s and say, hey, we’ll just have an omnibus bill and throw it all in there, and we’ll have everything together, which negates all the work that committees do to find specialized solutions or the best way to approach something: all that goes out the door.
Now, because this is really kind of a newer thing that’s been happening in America, and I’ll go back to President Ronald Reagan with this, President Ronald Reagan, this was starting to happen in his day. So we’re talking back in the mid-80s. It was President Ronald Reagan, who said, “Give me a line item veto for the budget.”
In other words, he says a lot of stuff in this budget that I wish I could veto and get rid of. There are so many things stacked to here that don’t have anything to do with what the people want. Let’s get those things cut out of there.
And so at this point, the Constitution did not allow you to have a line item veto, because bills were fairly specific. They dealt with a specific issue, and the President vetoed it or signed and approved it. And if he vetoed, the Congress could override the veto with a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate. But there wasn’t a need to have 55 things dumped into one bill or today 5,555 things dumped into a bill.
But when that started growing under President Reagan, he said give me a line item veto. You know, I don’t want to have to wipe out all the work that Congress did because you put it all in one bill, let me wipe out the stuff that’s really crazy, that doesn’t apply, that people don’t support. And if you can override that veto that line item, that once specific thing, go for it.
So we’re at a point today where that one of the solutions would be a line item veto. But to get that done would require a constitutional amendment, which means two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate must approve it, and three-fourths of the states must ratify. There’s no way you’re going to get Democrats to join on a line item veto bill when the lack of a line item is the primary way they spend money, it’s the primary way they get their programs done.
There are so many programs that are not popular with the people that if they had to stand up to an up or down vote, they would go down. But because they can put it into these omnibus Christmas tree bills, I mean, this is one of the great abominations in my opinion of modern politics today is the lack of our germaneness rule. And, Rick, as you mentioned, Texas legislature had that, a lot of state legislators have that, is the federal Congress that really lacks that that really needs that.
A Convention of States
Yeah, and I hadn’t even thought about like you mentioned, you know, a constitutional amendment line item veto and maybe it would be a constitutional amendment that also included some sort of germaneness requirement in the House, and like you said definitely opposed by the members of Congress. Only way you’d get that done is in a Convention of States done by the state legislators and outside of the Congress. But that might be the way long term to fix this.
We got time for a quick question before we go to the break. This one is Kind of fits along the same, you know, the original question in terms of what changed from the time the Founders set the system up, this question is about voting though. “How were state officials able to change voting protocols when they are specifically laid out in the Constitution? And why aren’t any politicians doing anything about it?”
And I’ll just throw out there with you guys on this one, that course the Constitution doesn’t really set up voting protocols. It just says who gets to design, those voting protocols, and it gives those state officials, not federal officials, state officials, the authority to do that?
Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s not the Constitution, the system protocols for voting. Constitution says you’ll have voting, but the states get to choose the time, place, and manner. So the states do the state laws. And the state laws are to be upheld by the governor who’s to execute those laws, not to rewrite those laws.
Yeah. And I think there’s probably some who would say we get that, we understand Constitution, and then you have the separation of powers, because you have the federal and then you have your state governments. But we’re seeing where state officials have not been held accountable when for so many of these states, it says their state legislative body is the one who gets to write or change the voting process and what happens in those elections.
And certainly, there were many situations where you had state election officials who many of them were appointed, even Judges who didn’t have the state constitutional authority to make those decisions. Fortunately, we have seen some states that have gone back and they’re reviewing some of those election laws, and they’re putting things in place in their state legislative bodies to try to do things.
Dictatorship Vs. Constitutional Republic
Unfortunately, that’s where, unless the people the state are going to hold their officials accountable, officials, oftentimes they’re going to do things that will usurp power to give them more opportunity to do what they want to do. And it really becomes dictatorships more than a constitutional republic, where there is a democratic republic, or even the people going to have a say in this.
So this is where the people really have to stand up. And so in your state, this is something that may be your state legislative body, they did things this session to try to help prevent the overreach of different officials power.
And if not, you ought to contact your state elected official and let them know that this is a concern for you. And you want to see this happen in your state to make sure that some of that overreach can never happen again in a future election in your state.
Yeah, Tim, you hit on a really important point there. I kind of took the question a little bit wrong when they said how were state officials, you’re exactly right. There’s a difference in the state legislature and state officials meaning like a secretary of state, or maybe a governor that becomes like a dictator changing those laws.
The Constitution empowers the legislature to make these laws with regard to how the election is going to take place. And the questioner is exactly right: state officials, meaning those executive level department folks actually did change the rules without constitutional authority. So well stated.
Hey, we got a quick break, guys. We’ve got more questions when we return. It is Foundations of Freedom Thursday here on WallBuilders Live.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution of most of our States and of the United States assert that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves. That is their right and duty to be at all times armed, that they are entitled to freedom of person; freedom of religion; freedom of property and freedom of press.”
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution, but just felt like man, the classes are boring, or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago, or I don’t know where to start? People want to know, but it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the constitution either.
Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive! With David Barton and Rick Green. And it’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library, where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
We call it the Quickstart Guide to the Constitution, because in just a few hours through these videos, you will learn the citizen’s guide to America’s constitution, you’ll learn what you need to do to help save our constitutional republic. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive! With David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at wallbuilders.com.
President Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realized that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”
We’re back here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us today on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday, second half of the program today with a special guest in studio. Jonathan Ritchie is back with us. Jonathan, you must have been a hit last week. Man, we got you back in within a week.
Welcome Jonathan Richie
I mean, are we really surprised by that?
Yes, actually, I…
Yes. Yeah, Tim and I. Yeah.
Alright. Yeah, I didn’t expect you guys to be honest.
Well, you know, you knocked it out of the park last week with a tough question. So here we go. This one’s from Brad. He said, “Love you guys’ show. I wanted to know if you guys do anything on Cicero. He is a great example of someone that discovered natural law that was not a Christian. I believe he was very influential on the founding, but I’ve never heard you guys mentioned him. Have a blessed day.” So there you go. Brad. We mentioned Cicero. Okay, what’s next? No, good question.
No wait minute. Is Cicero one of the new social media platforms? Is that? I mean, what do we have on Cicero? It sounds like something we…
Alright, you’re breaking my heart.
That might actually make a good social media program, I mean, platform.
Alright, so I’ll take the lead on this one because I love Cicero. Cicero, for those of you like, Mr. David who might not know, alright, Cicero is probably one of the most famous ancient Romans. He was born about a century before Christ. And the New Testament really kicks off, he was a Roman senator, he was a lawyer, he was a writer, he was a philosopher, really kind of one of the last great Roman figures before the fall of the Roman Republic.
Even guys like Russell Kirk, who’s a famous author in history of conservative thinking, he wrote that when Cicero died, the Roman Republic kind of died with him. And that’s obviously kind of a little bit of a simplification of historical events. But the sentiment is really, largely true because Cicero is viewed by especially the American Founding Fathers as one of the great martyrs of republicanism, of thinking how does the republic work and really of natural loss theory, Cicero is one of the first authors to start writing a lot about these universal principles of truth of right reason, of what is a good law.
And he says, good law, it corresponds with right thinking and nature. And it’s universal across the board. You know, what’s right, morally is going to be right morally in every situation.
Even though Cicero was before Christ, he starts to prepare the way for thinking about these issues of law in a more moral context. It’s not just what works best for me. It’s what’s actually right in the situation. And so Cicero in his thinking, and a lot of the other Roman republican thinkers start showing up in the writings of the Founding Fathers quite a bit, actually.
Now, just stopped there for a minute because showing up in the writing the Founding Fathers, I’ve got to say that going through school as I did college, I never saw writing of Cicero anywhere. So where were the Founders have been exposed to his writings? Was a part of their education, if so why?
Yeah, so it was a lot of their education, because the Founding Fathers were largely brought up on these ancient Roman authors and authorities, that’s kind of their first introduction and a lot of sense after the Bible. So you have guys like Thomas Jefferson in his letter to Peter Carr, where he lays out a curriculum for what a young gentleman needs to understand in this new republic of America.
Jefferson’s Education Recommendations
And you find that the very first subject that Jefferson recommends is a course in ancient history where you go through the ancient Greek historians and Roman historians, and then you find the ancients in basically every single subject matter. What’s really interesting is Jefferson tells his nephew that in order to study morality, you go to the Socratic dialogues written by Plato, and you start with the philosophies of Cicero.
So for guys like Jefferson in this early founding period, Cicero and his peers in the ancient world are really the foundation that they start with to learn these republican principles. Guys like Noah Webster actually specifically talks about in order to learn how to speak well, you have to start with the speeches of Demosthenes, who’s a Greek order and Cicero. And Cicero is largely acclaimed as probably one of the greatest public speakers of all time.
So Jonathan, recognizing the Founding Fathers are acknowledging the importance of understanding Cicero and a lot of the thought he put forward, what are the classic books they would have gone to? If right, so Jefferson’s telling his nephew, Peter Carr, hey, in your learning, here’s something you need to learn. You need to go back and steadies part of what Cicero wrote.
What are the classics that may be even today, right, somebody says, okay, so whether it be Audible, whether it be a Google Book, or maybe I’m going to find this somewhere, where are places we can go today to find some of those writings of Cicero?
Well, if you go to the website Online Library of Liberty, they will have a great selection of Cicero’s writings. Most of his writings that survive will be his speeches, his legal speeches, which are phenomenal, really great. They’re even better in the Latin if you want to take the time to learn the Latin, which I think everybody should. It’s a great language. It’s a lot of fun. You guys know Latin, right?
Yeah, that’s it. That’s totally [crosstalk 21:21]. Yeah, that’s solid.
Sorry. That’s not even close. Not even close. Sorry.
No, that was Latin, that was more Latin than Tim.
Yeah. So Online Library of Liberty will have some great selections of Cicero. One of the main books that was really popular in the Founding Fathers period, was the book called “De Officiis”, which in English it just means on duty.
So what type of responsibilities people have in public office and that was a very important book for the Founders on. Now that we are having this form of self-government, how should we act? What should be our moral and ethical obligations are?
Alright, so Jonathan, let me see if we can back up. So Cicero, then is someone who’s advocating for natural law? What are things, as you pointed out, if it’s right, and it must be right all the time, if it’s moral, right, it’s across the board. What led him to the conclusion that there is some kind of outside sources, that there’s a natural law? Certainly, the Founding Fathers were talking about inalienable rights to the laws of nature, and nature’s God. There’s things that they thought you could look to and see. There’s some level of revelation that you can learn. So what is Cicero pointing to say there’s a natural law?
You know, it’s pretty interesting looking at some of his writings, and some of his quotes, he makes almost the same exact argument as the Founding Fathers do. He points to that there is a divine creator who created man with basically certain inalienable rights, and with those rights come responsibilities. And if you’re going to have a good law, it has to be concordant with and correspond with the way that the divine creator made humanity and made people to work together.
A Creator and His Ways
To read one of these quotes here, he says, quote, and this is Cicero, says, “A human being was endowed by the Supreme God with a grand status at the time of its creation, it alone of all types and varieties of animate creatures has a share in reason and thought, which all the others lack.”
And so he goes on and says, look, the divine creator, obviously, he wasn’t Christian. He was before Christ. But he starts to make these points just based on the reason God gave him that there has to be a creator, and he created the world in a certain way. And when we acknowledge that way, that God made man, it works better.
So he’s looking back over the centuries of history at that time and seeing what works, what doesn’t work. And that’s probably the way God meant things to work.
Yeah, guys. It’s interesting, just hearing this thought of how Cicero kind of view things because it certainly is very reminiscent. Jonathan, you pointed to what the Founding Fathers largely argued, where today, we could point to people that we consider the least religious of all the Founding Fathers. And a guy like Benjamin Franklin, who says, well, we know there was a divine creator. And we know he revealed himself in creation. And actually, Franklin goes even further, because Franklin says, we know he gave the Old and New Testament that were given by divine inspiration, but he rewards the good, he punishes the wicked.
But Franklin goes on this very long, strong position of God and the revelation of God. And it very much sounds similar to me on some levels of a Cicero, which certainly, Thomas Jefferson references Cicero on more than one occasion, pointing out his great philosophy and how he was able to communicate some very profound truths and maybe some simplistic ways, or at least for the Founding Fathers, it was simplistic, but they were very well educated. So right, maybe that’s a give or take. Nonetheless, it’s something that certainly you see these very same arguments come from the Founding Fathers, right, nearly 2000 years later, they’re arguing the same kind of thing.
And it’s interesting, Jonathan, as you pointed out, Jefferson told his 15 year old nephew, you need to be in Cicero. And you were making fun of me and Tim, because we don’t speak Latin. But, you know, that goes back to a founding era point as well is that in that day, most students in college spoke Latin and Greek and English.
And so Jefferson and others would have read Cicero in Latin, that was a common language for them, and that was just the language of the masses. And it is interesting that we’ve gotten really slid today. We may have more technology, but I’m not sure we have more knowledge for sure.
Omnibus Bills, Election Laws, Cicero, And More – On Foundations Of Freedom
Yeah, exactly. And actually, one of my favorite stories with the Founding Fathers in Cicero is John Adams, of all people, actually recommended reading of Cicero’s speeches out loud to, “exercise the lungs, raise the spirits, and open the circulation.” And in fact, whenever John Adams would get into family arguments, he would stop and go read Cicero in order to quote, compose, himself, which is just, I had to say I’ve never been in a family argument where I or anybody else in my family has stopped to read Cicero.
But we’re out of time for Cicero today, guys, so you got to go do your Cicero reading and then you can quiz Jonathan next time we have the opportunity for this. So make sure you send those questions in to [email protected] and check out our website today at wallbuilderslive.com. We should appreciate your listening. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.
Thomas Jefferson said, “In questions of power, then let no more be heard of confidence in man that bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”