Be careful what you wish for in Washington
Members of all three branches of the U.S. government historically have been frustrated at times by the checks and balances built into our system of government. Our Constitution was so written as to prevent one branch of government from having domination over the other branches. Through the years, Congress has passed the laws, the executive branch implemented those laws passed by Congress and the courts restrained Congress and the executive from infringing upon protections written into our Constitution.
However, now that the Democrats are in control of the presidency and the Senate, they are playing fast and loose with our governing restraints. For example:
1. Senate rules: In the Senate, a super majority vote historically has been required to pass legislation and to confirm certain presidential appointments but the present Senate majority leader, Harry (“Dead on Arrival”) Reid has changed rules that have been in place for more than 200 years to allow presidential appointments to be passed by a simple majority, thus bypassing the filibuster.
Now that this precedent has been broken, what is to stop Democrats (or Republicans) from going “all the way” by changing the rules to require a simple majority vote in every other circumstance? Following this precedent, a Republican president and simple majority in both houses of Congress could vote out Obamacare, the Environmental Protection Act, the Internal Revenue Service, federal control of education and so forth. Or, under the same scenario, the Democrats could vote in cap and trade, total EPA control of industries, required national health insurance for all citizens and laws restricting our population’s diet and activities. When self restraint is removed, the sky is the limit!
2. Presidential abuse of power: “I have a pen and a cell phone and I can use them!” With that statement, President Barack Obama threatened to bypass Congress and its laws, and to rule by presidential edict. He has rewritten the immigration law by instructing his attorney general and immigration officials to ignore the law as written. In Obamacare, he has ignored the “shall” mandates of the law 27 times and personally postponed selected parts of the law from Jan. 1 until after the 2014 election.
Going back to Aristotle’s time, B.C., the philosophy was that government should be run by the rule of law, i.e., no man or group should be above the law. In ancient Rome, Caesar Augustus bypassed the elected Roman Senate and ruled by decree. Following that, Rome was ruled by an imperial dictator for more than 400 years, until its collapse and invasion by the Huns in the fifth century.
3. Weakening of the U.S. Supreme Court: The Supreme Court first acted to protect the Constitution during the Madison administration and has done so since. However, it does so with great restraint, but when our present Supreme Court considered the case of Obamacare, the majority decision was based on the premise that the penalty for not participating in the national health plan was not a penalty but a tax. The majority deemed that although a penalty payment would be illegal, it was indeed a tax and therefore legal. This was in spite of the Obamacare law’s specifically stating the penalty was not a tax.
The court has a theory called “standing” so as not to get involved in political fights. Obama argues the Supreme Court has no “standing” to call him up on his unilateral violation of the immigration laws and the use of the Internal Revenue Service as a political weapon. When Franklin Roosevelt was president, he was opposed by some adversaries of his “New Deal” laws. One law that was struck down by the Supreme Court was the minimum pricing of goods. It was like the minimum wage, but for prices. It allowed the government and merchants to get together and establish “minimum” prices for goods sold so the household buyer could not go from store to store and pick the best price.
This action of the Supreme Court so infuriated FDR that he threatened to “pack the court” by having his party, which controlled both Houses of Congress, pass a law adding six new Supreme Court justices to the traditional nine. He would appoint all liberal justices and thus he could get his way. but he stopped because he could not get the super-majority of votes needed in the Senate. Eventually, though, the Supreme Court retirements and the threat of packing the court, the Supreme Court backed down and approved all laws under the New Deal.
Finally, Andrew Jackson, the founder of the present Democratic Party, completely ignored a direct ruling of the Supreme Court. It happened that gold was found on the tribal lands of the Cherokee nation. Gold hunters moved into these lands. The Cherokee, being a sophisticated people (they dressed like the white man), filed a federal lawsuit to protect their treaty-protected homelands. In response, Jackson ordered the American Army to forcibly remove all Indian tribes from east of the Mississippi to west of the Mississippi. Thus followed the famous “Trail of Tears.”
The Cherokee nation then went to the Supreme Court and obtained an injunction against the president and the army. Jackson’s response was: “The Supreme Court issued the order. Let them enforce it.” The Trail of Tears continued, at the cost of almost 4,000 Cherokee lives, as well as the lives of thousands of members of other tribes.
4. Are we there yet? Whenever Sue and I took the kids on a long driving vacation, we would always hear from them, “Are we there yet?” And Sue and I would answer, “No, but we’re getting closer.”
By exercising the “nuclear option” of removing the rights of the minority in the Senate to slow down the actions of the majority party and with this precedent established, a political party that has a simple majority control of the House, the Senate and the presidency could ride roughshod over any minority group of people as follows:
A. Change the rules to require that all laws and actions have a simple majority vote in the Senate. This would also apply to the Senate’s approval of presidential appointments, except where specifically required by the Constitution.
B. Pass all laws in both bodies of Congress by a simple majority.
C. Utilize the IRS and other departments as political weapons against your political enemies.
D. If the Supreme Court tries to stop you, increase their numbers until you have a clear majority on that court. The increases in numbers and appointments would require only a simple majority vote.
E. In the end, if the Supreme Court rules against you, defy the order.
Are we there yet? No, but we’re getting closer.