From Iran Deal to Planned Parenthood, James Madison Playbook Could Teach GOP House How to Win

The House of Representatives has untapped powers it needs but the courage to wield.

By Ken Blackwell & Bob Morrison Published on September 4, 2015

We can see the contemporary relevance of American Founder James Madison in the struggle over the Iran nuclear deal. The House, to be sure, is not given the power to ratify treaties under the Constitution that Madison and his fellow Framers gave us, but it is given the power of the purse. And Congressman Madison showed how the House might act to check and balance runaway branches. He tutored his House colleagues in how the power of the purse might be employed to shut down implementation of programs and treaties the House viewed as dangerous to the people’s liberties.

Madison’s vigorous actions remind us that the House of Representatives could take decisive action against the dangerous and defeatist Iran nuclear deal if it could but muster the will. The House, for instance, could block implementation of key parts of the deal by cutting off essential funding. It could put swing vote Democratic Senators on notice that it will dry up funding for pet projects in their states if they decide to sell out America’s and Israel’s security by voting for the disastrous Iran deal.

Too extreme? No, because the Iran nuclear deal is extreme, threatening the very existence of Israel and even endangering the American homeland. To bomb Israel, Iran does not need intercontinental ballistic missiles. President Obama’s fatally flawed deal lets them develop ICBMs, whose purpose is surely to menace with the threat of a nuclear strike the U.S. mainland and other distant countries, a capability the deal opens the door for Iran to obtain in just ten years.

This is consequential. This is transformational. This historic. James Madison would have acted, and acted decisively. The House under John Boehner? Not so much.

Defunding Planned Parenthood

The House GOP could act decisively and effectively on other fronts as well.

The Obama administration has trampled on freedom as no previous administration has done. It has dragged into federal court the Little Sisters of the Poor (Catholic), the owners of Hobby Lobby (Evangelical), and the congregation of Hosanna Tabor church (Lutheran). What has the House GOP done about all this? Precious little. But perhaps the most vivid example of his contempt for freedom is his handling of the Planned Parenthood scandal. As millions of Americans see an almost daily exposure of the horrors of that evil enterprise, the President refuses even to acknowledge viewing the shocking videos released by the heroic David Daleiden and his intrepid colleagues at the Center for Medical Progress. What the president has done is threaten to veto any Continuing Resolution that takes one dollar from Planned Parenthood. The House GOP must answer such callousness with more than symbolic gestures.

It could defund Planned Parenthood and stand strong when the president and his lap dog media try to blame the House GOP for “shutting the government down” simply for refusing to send federal money to Planned Parenthood’s human body shops. And if the GOP House had the courage and vision of a James Madison, they would understand that doing so is a winning move for them and for America, even if it means playing and winning a long game of chicken with President Obama over a government shutdown.

If the House GOP leadership went to the school of Madison, they also would understand that some things are worth pursuing even at great personal risk. Madison valued American freedom and Independence. That’s why he valued the right to life and liberty, including religious freedom, joining the other founders in a revolution that could have cost all of them their lives.

Both life and liberty are being torn apart by Planned Parenthood and by the forced taxpayer funding of that organization and other groups providing abortion services. Meanwhile, the Iran nuclear deal poses a threat to life and liberty on an international scale. What is the House GOP doing about all this? Madison wrote in Federalist 51 that the new Constitution he was defending would offer checks and balances to secure freedom. The House of Representatives is one such crucial check. But to fulfill its role its leaders must answer the call.


Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison are Senior Fellows at the Family Research Council. 


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