The legislative branch of the Federal Government of the United States no longer legislates. Paying absolutely no attention to policy differences or ideology, let’s examine the actual situation as it is.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate, where they have the majority, do block some bills sent to them by the Republican controlled House of Representatives. That obstructs some legislation. Oddly, there are a mere handful of proposed bills to block in the first place by Democrats, because Republicans who control what even comes up for a vote in the House legislate so little. There are few bills sent to the Senate for anybody to pass, or reject. Little if anything goes to President Obama for him to sign into law or veto.
50 times they were measures repealing the signature legislation of this century for President Obama and the Democrats, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Once enacted into law, and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, such a fundamental policy decision by the majority party can be expected to be blocked by a party so wedded to it as a core policy.
President Obama has contributed to this situation by not continuing to try to work with members of the opposing party, even though demonstrably they never will work with him for fear of giving him a so called “victory.” What about the traditional notion of good legislation, with significant bi-partisan support being a victory for the American people?
Throughout American history, legislators made laws amid the worst sort of partisan wrangling and all sorts of hatreds. But they did legislate simply because the nation’s business had to be done somehow.
In just the last few years, a couple of bills have been blocked by Democrats since they had no bi-partisan support. And they had no bi-partisan support because what Republicans do legislate are legislative bills so beyond what Democrats can compromise on there is no logical or common sense place for bi-partisan support. It is essentially what Republicans want minus anything Democrats want or need to amend in a bill to let it pass. They may indeed have been good and needed policy ideas, but legislators going back to the first Congress of the United States always convinced at least some members of the other party to join them in voting on a given bill.
Civics, political science, and government teachers since the beginning of a free universal and public education in the United States have told students that the heart of legislating in a Congress with at least two opposing parties, something we’ve had since 1794, only comes with the common practice of compromise.
Let’s all say this word together: compromise. But we all know that the Tea Party dominant Republican Party of today has campaigned on the plank that they never will compromise. And to our surprise have acted in near perfect fidelity to what they believe.
Democrats have often since Obama has been president, and Obama himself, have offered serious cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even Food Stamps and more to get some legislating done. They have tried to compromise beyond what would be wise in legislating from the standpoint of any party. Still, Republicans refuse to do it.
Remember, a number of Republican legislators have stated that compromise means doing precisely what they want. What a curious definition. A new and separate definition of the word is coming or is already in our dictionaries. That new definition is a means of compromise that is the exact polar opposite to all previous definitions of compromise.
We must remember, however we feel about ideology or policy that the Bush Administration told reporters they were about creating an entirely new reality of their own making. Apparently it is succeeding.
Since the Republicans control the lower house, the House of Representatives, where under our Constitution all spending bills begin, they have wrested huge cuts in the growth of Federal spending. At this time our Federal spending is falling at the fastest rate since 1950. That’s due to threats both actual and not realized to shut the government down, or to let us refuse to pay our bills as a government, threatening to make our monetary system a panic zone.
Last year, Republicans shut the government down for a few weeks, costing taxpayers $24 Billion to do it, and making all Americans angry and disgusted with that Congress.
Yet Democrats tried to stop it, but did not have the votes in the House to stop Republicans using the denial of the public purse to force our government to shut down for lack of resources to simply keep it going.
We’d here like to have a real and actual equivalency between our two major parties so we are not at each other’s throats pointing fingers and could say “a pox on both your houses.” But doing so creates a distinct false equivalency that is essentially finding equivalent behaviors and intentions when those equivalencies are not present at all, and the odd, contrary, and unproductive behavior is unfortunately all Republican.
Democrats in Congress and the Administration have fought Republican efforts to close the government down, and failed due to Republicans insistence to not fund our government and force a shutdown. Republicans were going to fail to increase the debt limit and allow default on our nation’s debts that could spark a world economic collapse. With some spending cuts they stepped back from the precipice of collapse. They have not backed off on doing it again. Some have not stopped talking about it.
This past week, our Congress entered such a new low that it must be described the way UFOs and not yet proved but suspected laws of physics we do not understand are defined, resulting in what is scientifically known as High Strangeness.
This is political and government high strangeness.
President Obama in a Friday press conference last week called it “Republicans fighting Republicans.” We all know that the Republican Speaker of the House put a bill up to be put on the floor that would spend just $659 million, two thirds of which were law enforcement funds further militarizing the border. One third were for more judges and humanitarian aid to little children and parents who have largely fled violence where their deaths were likely, along with child trafficking, and rape for young women from these Central American countries. A separate law for Mexico just deports those undocumented persons who come across our border against our laws.
Then, Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator pulled together 12 to 15 of the most extreme Tea Party members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. They let it be known that they would not support what in point of fact was a Republican bill that Democrats were ready to reluctantly support with a minority of House Democrats making easy passage. This is not the final immigration bill, but a temporary emergency one that Republicans said is a crisis on our border demanding immediate action.
That bill was at the last moment withdrawn, because a significant minority of Republicans did not support the bill, as it was not reactionary enough. The Republicans in Congress had all members stay an extra day and passed a second bill and a third that were more extreme, and the second not even directed at the current crisis, but at long time immigration policy they disagree with the President about. It is so extreme that no responsible Democrat can compromise enough to vote for it. They went home for a month and have very few days to legislate anything upon their return.
Then, to make the Republican High Strangeness even more prominent, they blamed the President for not acting strongly enough, with John Boehner the recognized Republican House spokesman, however little power he has, demanding the President use strong executive action to do what the Congress failed to do. Boehner had a couple of days earlier brought the House to pass legislation that sues the President for taking precisely this sort of executive action; two absolutely incompatible actions.
Today, Republicans are saying that if the President acts by executive order to protect these defenseless children and care for them or allow people who have been working here for many years to merely get a work permit, they will impeach him for taking executive action they demand at one and the same time.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is Republican High Strangeness.
The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans. No one can deny that fact. And they refuse to compromise under the long accepted definition of this human behavior. Without bills to consider, the Senate cannot pass bills.
And, where the Senate has passed bi-partisan legislation on things such as a comprehensive immigration bill House leaders, Republicans, refuse to form a conference committee to iron out what commonly are partisan and policy differences in the legislation that reasonably must be addressed. Oh. Republicans have refused to this point to pass a companion House bill that could make a conference committee possible. Boehner has refused to even put such a proposition to a vote. Blaming Democrats here would be the worst sort of false equivalency.
How can President Obama sign legislation when it does not pass both houses of Congress? He cannot. Our Constitution does not give him the Legislative Power. However actions within his authority under the Constitution of the United States can be undertaken and in point of fact have been undertaken by every single previous president in our history. These are a huge set of legally supported actions known as Executive Orders. These things rarely can do enough to solve problems that only legislation signed into law by the President can solve. But Presidents have this means of dealing with problems Congress refuses to fix open to them.
The Chief Executive of the United States, the President, has the power to use the military prior to Congress declaring war when foreign powers attack us or threaten to. Presidents must report to Congress, bringing that fact to Congress under the War Powers Act of 1973. Presidents can and are actually tasked with protecting our national security in not just military ways, but in regard to any threats to our peace, and the personal security of our citizens. Our current President is presently tasked with enforcing a 2008 law guaranteeing legal due process for these children. The United States is a signatory to two conventions protecting the human rights of migrants seeking asylum. These two conventions were approved by a two thirds majority of the U.S. Senate, giving them the force of law. The recent Republican bills would have repealed that law if passed.
That is where we are now with the refusal of Congress, undertaken by Republicans,to act.
High Strangeness indeed. Any UFO’s over the Capitol Building?
Thomas Martin Saturday
For Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”