In maiden speech, Schmitt says he wants Congress to take power back from the White House

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Sen. Eric Schmitt on Tuesday called on the Senate to take down the federal bureaucracy and give power back to Congress in his maiden speech in the chamber.

His pledge comes as the freshman Missouri Republican has decided his focus in the Senate will be pushing back against the administrative state — the vast network of administrative agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that fall under the purview of the executive branch.

“The people’s branch is being diluted of its rightful role,” Schmitt said. “Willingly, I might add.”

A senator’s maiden speech is a tradition that stretches back to the early days of the chamber. Newly elected senators used to wait months before weighing in on the debates of the day, hoping it would earn them the respect of more senior members, according to the Senate Historical Office. Now, a senator’s first formal policy speech is merely given special attention.

In his first few months in office, Schmitt has introduced legislation that would require administrative agencies to remove three regulations for every one regulation they add. And he’s supports a bill called the REINS Act, short for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, which would give Congress more power over rules created by those same agencies.

Schmitt’s focus on federal agencies allows him to take a technical approach to an issue that will allow him to politically sound off on the culture war issue of the day, like the federal government’s efforts to regulate things like gas stoves.

“Already now in the U.S. Senate, he is holding the deep state, the administrative state accountable,” Hawley said. “Standing up for ordinary, normal, everyday working Missourians who deserve to have a voice in this chamber, who deserve to have a voice in their government.”

Schmitt’s speech — delivered while standing behind the Senate desk of President Harry Truman, a Missouri Democrat, to a group of about 10 Republican senators — touched on his family’s history. He spoke about how his grandfather came back after World War II and opened a butcher shop in Missouri and how his father worked the midnight shift to provide for his family.

And talked about how his son’s Tuberous Sclerosis diagnosis first inspired him to run for office. The disease causes non-cancerous tumors to grow on the brain and other organs. Schmitt’s son suffers from epilepsy, autism and is non-verbal.

“Going through that experience with my son, including a four hour seizure, you start to evaluate things, what’s important, what do you want to do?” Schmitt said. “And through that process of discernment, I decided that I wanted to do more than what I was doing. And Steven was my inspiration.”

Though inspired to run for office by his son, Schmitt said he wanted to use his position to represent forgotten Missourians who want a fair shake. He said people are often disillusioned with government because they send people to Congress and little changes.

But his goal of handing power back to Congress would require a hyper-partisan branch of government that struggles to pass mandatory pieces of legislation to take on a larger and more technical role in the governing process. Often, when a bill is passed, Congress describes what it wants and leaves the mission up to experts at the agencies to determine the rules. By taking that power away from those agencies, Congress would have to pass laws that create specific rules.

“It falls on each one of us, here in this Article I branch, to fundamentally dismantle [the administrative state],” Schmitt said.

He also said Congress has to do more to protect free speech, referencing a high-profile lawsuit he filed as Missouri attorney general alleging the Biden administration colluded with social media companies to suppress speech.

The case centers around social media companies efforts to combat misinformation during the election and COVID-19 pandemic. But Schmitt said the efforts were akin to government censorship. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued a mixed ruling on the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case in March.

“It’s not the government’s job to tell us what we can hear or believe,” Schmitt said. “We can figure that out for ourselves.”

Former Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, also sat in the Senate chamber for the speech. Afterward, he came up and congratulated Schmitt on his speech and stood talking to him for several minutes.