Friday, July 27, 2007

Making Up for Lost Time

Preface: Here's a blog post that takes on the argument from the opposing camp, particularly in response to that ridiculous talking point that Congress is not doing anything. It explains why Congress must and is trying valiantly to reclaim its oversight role. The obstructionist Republicans now dramatically resist the call for an up or down vote - their perpetual cry during the years when the Democratic minority yielded the power of filibuster - suddenly, the Repubs have remembered the filibuster and glommed onto it like a drowning man grabs onto a water weenie. Did the Democrats pull out the filibuster when Alito was rammed through the Senate? No, the Republicans countered with the "Nuclear Option" (in effect, taking away the filibuster as a procedural tool). That threat apparently scared the Dems into submission. I, for one, wish that the Dems had called the Repubs' bluff and let them do away with the filibuster. If they'd had any faith in the electorate, they might have found the spine to let the Republicans take away this powerful procedural tool and live to see the day when that decision would come back and bite them in the ass. Now that the tables are turned, the Dems have too much decorum to threaten to take away the filibuster. Why is that? Just wondering....

I am sick and tired of hearing the right-wing talking point (mentioned on air again this morning on the Stephanie Miller Show by one of Stephie's right-wing love muffins) that the public approval rating for congress is hovering around the same low numbers as the president. Never mind the fact that I guess, poco a poco, folks are beginning to understand what is really going on and the trend is that the congressional number is beginning to climb while the president's number continues to fall. In my humble opinion, it is quite clear why the Congress has been launching investigation after investigation, issuing subpoenas after subpoenas, in a nutshell they have once again gotten back to a very core principle of their duty - OVERSIGHT. Our government works primarily because the founders designed a tripartite system that is made up of three branches of government, namely the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. One of the functions of all three branches that the founders imagined would ensure that this country would never become a tyrannical dictatorship was oversight of the other two branches by the third branch. This is a paramount responsibility of each branch of our federal system, but it is a responsibility that was largely ignored since the 107th Congress took an oath to uphold the Constitution - in 2001 - ushering in the George W. Bush presidency. We are now in the 110th Congress and we finally have seated enough representatives and senators from the opposition party that oversight is back on the agenda in congress. If you ask me, it's not a moment too soon. We've had six years of unchecked actions by an executive branch that has one of the most delusional and expansive visions of its reign in modern history. That is why it is so important to understand that what congress is busy doing is reasserting it latent power to ask questions, establish limits, and sometimes outright challenge the policies of the administrative office of the president.

Congress is not only up against six and a half years of acquiescence to a president and administration who seek imperial powers and do much of their business behind closed doors, but also they are working with a rather substantial handicap. In spite of an impressive showing at the polls last November, Democrats do not have enough votes, particularly in the Senate, to override the procedural move called filibuster. In other words, a simple majority will get you nowhere. Either side, in these very partisan times, needs to muster at least 60 votes in the Senate in order to overcome a filibuster and 67 votes in order to override a presidential veto.

This is all evidence that the founders expected each branch would take its oversight responsibility seriously. Washington or Jefferson never imagined a congress that would simply rubber stamp every request that the executive branch handed to it. They expected that requests for money, for projects, for defense, and especially for the most serious action a nation can undertake - WAR - would be carefully scrutinized. But unfortunately, there has been no challenge to any idea that was floated by congress by Bush and company. No challenge to tax cuts for the very rich, no challenge to gutting environmental protections, no challenge to war in Iraq. The current administration looked to congress to reinforce their maniacal worldview of conquest and corporate profits above all else. They looked to congress for a simple thumbs up and almost without exception that is what BushCo received from a highly complicit congress.

So now that congress has rediscovered its oversight role in the federal system, we have some catching up to do. We have an enormous backlog of policies that need to be reviewed, firings that must be investigated, wars that need to be ended, secrets that need to be aired out in the open, regulations that must be reviewed, diplomatic relations around the world that must be restored, many, many things that were not done when they should have been done. We are paying the price in the form of trying to work through a logjam created by the previous congressional obsequiousness. No wonder the work in congress is moving at a snail's pace - they are being thwarted at every turn by the same gang who waived through the policies of the last six years. One of my favorite recent drops on the SMS says: "the two symbols of the Republican party are an elephant and a big fat white guy who is threatened by change." The congressional member who best epitomizes this phrase is Dennis Hastert (Beefy McBratwurst) - a rather large, overweight white man who is scared to death of anything that might upset the status quo. But it is so much more than a single representative or senator - it is a mindset that allows one branch of the government to go about its nefarious business unchecked by either of the other two branches. And now we are saddled with a very weak judiciary exactly because congress did not fully exercise their oversight authority when it came to carefully scrutinizing nominees for the bench. This is particularly evident in the most recent appointments to the Supreme Court. Creating a situation in which it is all but assured that the executive branch will face no challenge from the judicial branch. Now there is talk about closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. See Senator Schumer's statement that there will be no more confirmations of Bush nominees to the High Court. Hey Chuck, I wish you'd remembered that judicial appointments are for life - ugh!

In this sorry state of affairs it is high time that the one branch of government that is closest to the people - the legislative branch - step up and renew its commitment to working for the people whom they have been elected to represent. If I have any impatience with congress, it is not impatience born of too many investigations, but rather an impatience that there have not been enough investigations or investigations have not been pursued with enough vigor to produce indictments. I say let congress do its job for the first time in over six years and hold this out-of-control executive branch accountable for at least a few of their most egregious power grabs. The list of abuses of power is long - from signing statements to wielding an illegal war to politicizing the Justice Department, so it will likely take some time to get to the bottom of this morass, but I say, do the best you can. Don't pay any attention whatsoever to those who say that you are not about the people's business - if trying to reign in an out-of-control executive isn't the people's business, I don't know what is. I humbly believe in my heart of hearts that the founders of this great democracy would agree with me. Impeach and convict Bush and Cheney NOW!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No wonder you're drained- after that excretion of political punditry you must need some bed rest!! Well said, Milly Faydee!!