Last week, Congress met and debated the Labor-Health-Education Appropriations legislation. That debate will continue through this week.
During debate last week an amendment was offered to prohibit the use of federal funds to perform abortions or offer various contraceptive devices to minors, if parents are not notified. The real debate on this point is not one of the rights of children versus the rights of parents, or even the question of whether federal money being spent this way -which constitutionality it obviously should not. The real debate is to what extent strings may be attached to federal funds. If the government is going to fund an unconstitutional program which should not exist anyway, then at the very least Congress should add sensible requirements for the sake of accountability. Doctors and nurses cannot even give out even an aspirin to a child without parental consent, mainly for fear of liability. And the government should do no less. If parents want their children to have ready access to birth control devices, then the parents should pay for it. But if the government is going to force us, the taxpayers, to subsidize these programs, then at the very least we should have a reasonable expectation that we - as taxpayers - are not going to be held accountable for any problems which may result from a child being given unlimited, uncontrolled access to various items paid for by the government. At the same time, it is unreasonable to expect parents to assume liability for complications resulting from actions over which they are no allowed no control.
Unfortunately, the amendment was narrowly defeated.
This past week also gave me the opportunity to testify about my education legislation, HR 1816. This bill gives parents the ability to take tax credits for up to $3,000 per year per child for education and education related expenses. This legislation has the benefit of imposing no cost to the taxpayers, and contains no federal "strings." It simply means people get to keep their own money, and spend it on the educational needs appropriate to their own child, rather than sending that money off to Washington bureaucrats and their failed, one-size-fits-all approach to government.
This week, I will be introducing two very important pieces of legislation. There has been a lot of talk around Washington and the nation about reforming our system of campaigning. Unfortunately a lot of this talk has centered around violating the Constitution, and especially the first amendment.
The two items I will be introducing on Tuesday embrace rather than disgrace the first amendment. The first is called the Voter Freedom Act of 1997. It will prohibit states from erecting excessive ballot access barriers to candidates for federal office. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to control federal elections, and I firmly believe that the more voices participating, the more likely it is that the entrenched, out-of-touch, Washington establishment will be swept to the side.
Another part of this vital process is opening the debates. So the second piece of legislation I am putting forward is the Debate Freedom Act of 1997. As you probably know, candidates for president can chose to accept federal funds if they meet certain private-fundraising criteria. I believe it is completely unconstitutional for taxpayers to be forced to subsidize any candidates, and especially those with whom they disagree; but if the candidates are going to get our money, then I propose we be able to set some ground-rules to get a better range of debate on the issues. My legislation simply requires that if a candidate accepts the federal funding for his or her election, then that candidate can only participate in debates to which all candidates who qualify for federal funding - whether they take it or not - are invited to participate. This doesn't force anyone to take taxpayer money, nor does it force them to give it up. If someone doesn't like the strings that come with taking our money, then they don't have to take it. But if a candidate does take the taxpayers' money, then the candidate will either have to participate in debates open to everyone who qualifies, or be forced to give up their federal funding.
In many ways, the bottom-line is this: if a person or group is
going to voluntarily take the taxpayers' money, then the recipient
- whether a candidate running for president or a clinic handing
out condoms - is going to have to be accountable and play by the
rules the taxpayers set and deserve.
Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.