Congressional Republicans Are Committing Political Suicide

This might come as a surprise to many but, in addition to conducting pointless investigations of Republican presidents, Congress actually has a serious function in our government. Shockingly, there was a time in this country’s history when Congress crafted laws. In fact, Congress not only legislated, it did so without direct presidential direction.

Until the 20th century, presidents rarely intervened in the legislative process, preferring to stick to fulfilling their constitutionally mandated legislative duties (i.e., giving an annual state of the union address and either vetoing or signing legislation into law). James Burnham described the role of most 19th century presidents as one of being a “leader to the legislature” rather than a “legislative leader.”

Historically, congressional leaders were elected on a platform specific to their states and/or to their home districts. Together, these congressional leaders formulated a legislative agenda that would enact laws that broadly aligned with their state and home districts’ interests. As Burnham explains, prior to the 20th century, “bills proposed for congressional enactment were never written by an executive official in an executive office and then transmitted to Congress.” However, according to Burnham, “In the post-1933 epoch probably more than half of the enacted statutes (excluding private bills and those of purely local interest) originate, in basic text as well as policy substance, in the executive branch.”

While there had been flirtations with transforming the president into the chief legislative officer before 1933, it was with Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the presidency moved from being merely the occasional home to an “energetic” executive to the expectation that the president would be the primary facilitator of major legislation.  FDR and his supporters justified these executive excesses as being necessary in the face of the twin crises of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Yet, even after FDR’s passing, the basic governing paradigm―the political regime that was created during his three terms in office―not only outlasted his administration, but was expanded upon by all of his last 12 successors, Democrat and Republican alike!

align=”left” size=””Until the 20th century, presidents rarely intervened in the legislative process, preferring to stick to fulfilling their constitutionally mandated legislative duties (i.e., giving an annual state of the union address and either vetoing or signing legislation into law). James Burnham described the role of most 19th century presidents as one of being a “leader to the legislature” rather than a “legislative leader.”]

Even under President Ronald Reagan, the most conservative man to win the presidency in decades, the powers of the executive consumed those of the supposedly coequal legislative branch. Former FDR aide-turned-presidential-historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. made a career of analyzing the rise of the “imperial presidency” (of course, he blamed it all on Richard Nixon—the preferred Republican bogeyman until Reagan and then Trump replaced him—while excusing the excesses of his old boss, FDR, on the grounds that Roosevelt had to contend with a national crisis).

Regardless of how one comes down on the issue of executive power, the fact remains that the entire concept of a president playing an active role in the creation of legislation is relatively new in our nation’s history. Many Republicans today made explicit campaign promises that they were not only going to legislate according to conservative ideals, but that they were going to return power to the American people by getting Congress to exercise more of its constitutional authority.

Apparently those were just words. While President Barack Obama reigned, Congressional Republicans told their constituents that they were engaged in a long-running legislative holding action until they could receive reinforcements on the Hill. When the GOP won the House in 2010, they told their voters that it wasn’t enough. So, the voters gave the GOP the Senate. But that still wasn’t enough to stem the tide of Obama’s statist agenda. The GOP needed to win the presidency. The voters fulfilled their end of the bargain in 2016. In typical fashion, the Congressional Republicans are finding new and creative ways to excuse their inaction.  

Now, because the Republican sitting in the Oval Office isn’t Jeb Bush, but instead the “offensive” and unconventional Donald Trump, the Congressional GOP leaders tell us that they can do nothing because Trump is hurting himself (which really just means he is offending their precious sensibilities) with all of his tweets, and the (fictitious) scandals. Give me a break. Former President Barack Obama publicly declared that he would rule this country with “a pen and phone” if the Republicans in Congress did not yield to his legislative directives. Before him, former President George W. Bush was an incredibly controversial leader and inarticulate public speaker. Yet, Congress ultimately followed the imperial will of both presidents in most respects.

align=”right” Now, because the Republican sitting in the Oval Office isn’t Jeb Bush, but instead the “offensive” and unconventional Donald Trump, the Congressional GOP leaders tell us that they can do nothing because Trump is hurting himself (which really just means he is offending their precious sensibilities) with all of his tweets, and the (fictitious) scandals.

Let’s face it: whatever role that the last 13 presidents have had in expanding executive power, Congress has also played a major part in this unfortunate trend. Yes, over the years, the executive branch has made sport of steamrolling the legislative branch. But, the legislative branch—possessed of individuals who, when they look at themselves in the mirror, imagine they see a president staring back at them—has done little to prevent itself from being steamrolled. Or, in the immortal words of The Office’s Robert California: “The fallacy is that it [flattening an object] is up to the steamroller. It is up to the object…whether it will be flattened or not.”  

Congress is an independent, co-equal branch of the federal government. It does not need a strong executive to write legislation for it! These Congressional leaders campaign on a platform of enacting legislation that, while it may comport with the platform of a given president, is not—should not—be contingent on whether a president approves of that platform. Consistent with the Burnham critique, these days Congress’ only self-imposed function is to serve as a referee―to make a painfully reductionist binary choice between either approving or rejecting the will of the executive branch. This lends credence to F.H. Buckley’s argument that America is ruled by a “crown government” or, an “elected monarchy” of sorts.

Speaking recently with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said of his one-time GOP primary rival, President Donald J. Trump: “He could do things that no other Republican could do. He could get immigration done, he’s got credibility on the border I don’t have, he could go big on infrastructure—he’s a builder—he knows what tax cuts will do for the economy, and he’s been a great commander-in-chief.”

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Trump can do things no other Republican could―or would―dare do.

Everything that Graham said is demonstrably true. Graham’s comments lend credence to the notion that Congressional Republicans should be clamoring to work with Trump in enacting the agenda that both Trump and Congress were elected to implement. Yet, in spite of this, the Republican-controlled Congress has ignored this pristine opportunity to legislate and, instead, has opted to spend the bulk of the last four months investigating the Trump Administration for supposed illicit ties to Russia—even though the accusations against the President are categorically false. Congress would rather waste its limited time engaged in salacious rumor-mongering that might confirm their election time hysteria, than in actually implementing the agenda that a majority of Congress was elected to enact.

Unlike other presidents of the modern era, President Trump represents the undoing of the FDR political regime. Therefore, he is a threat not only to the Left, but also to the Establishment to which so many Republicans have, apparently, become beholden. While he holds massive power in his hands, conferred upon him by eight decades of executive overreach, Trump is trying to return a semblance of balance back to the federal government by relying on Congress to write the law. However, since a majority of Congress in no way shares Trump’s commitment to this project, they are going to drag their proverbial feet and do everything they can—irrespective of party—to damage Trump’s ability to govern.

Let’s face it: America’s constitutional government is broken. But it is not irreparable. We can blame power-hungry presidents for the damage, but the real sin has been Congressional cowardice and incompetence. And now that there is a leader who just might actually return some of the power to Congress, those Congressional leaders are now abandoning their responsibilities, refusing to lead, and blaming all of their problems on President Trump. After all, if they solve problems, what can they take home to get people worked up about during the next campaign? And once they start legislating, people might actually begin to expect more of it! Can’t have that. How pathetic.

align=”right” Unlike other presidents of the modern era, President Trump represents the undoing of the FDR political regime. Therefore, he is a threat not only to the Left, but also to the Establishment to which so many Republicans have, apparently, become beholden. While he holds massive power in his hands, conferred upon him by eight decades of executive overreach, Trump is trying to return a semblance of balance back to the federal government by relying on Congress to write the law.

The difference between previous years and today is that there is a strong contingent of voters who are behind President Trump and his agenda, no matter what. These same people largely voted for Congressional Republicans, believing that they would create and implement laws based on conservative, nationalist-populist (yes, these things go together) lines. Instead, Congressional Republicans are abdicating responsibility with the expectation that they will be able to save face in the media and still crush the Democrats politically (by blaming the Democrats for their failures). Rather than abandon Trump, however, the Trumpists will likely turn on wayward Congressional Republicans—especially if Trump begins taking Congress to task for not living up to its promises, as he should do. With each legislative delay, Congressional Republicans are committing political suicide. Personally, I’d recommend all voters in 2018 primary every single Congressional Republican who has either supported the irresponsible investigations into Trump and/or those Congressional leaders who have failed to create legislation in keeping with the promises upon which they campaigned. Just because Congress is a deliberative body composed of many people it is not thereby excused of its responsibility to lead. The voters will no longer sit idly by and watch our republic die. Voting is our only weapon for self-defense and We, The People, are prepared to use it—even against Republicans. It’s time for Congress either to stand up and lead, or get out of the way, and let those with the courage to lead repopulate the legislative branch.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

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About Brandon J. Weichert

Brandon J. Weichert is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report. He is a contributing editor at American Greatness and a contributor at The American Spectator . His forthcoming book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower is due out from Republic Book Publishers in 2020. His writings on national security have appeared in Real Clear Politics and he has been featured on the BBC and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @WeTheBrandon.

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37 responses to “Congressional Republicans Are Committing Political Suicide

  • Only an imperial presidency can end the empire and restore constitutionalism. FDR’s energetic presidency was conservative in nature becuase he was trying to preserve the constitution against a revolution. Trump’s energetic presidency must be just as bold. It is shocking to watch, after years of this “threat of an imperial presidency” gibberish started under Nixon, that in fact the American Presidency is weak and seems powerless against the daily assaults of Congressional committees and even of executive branch offices which technically fall under the purvey of presidential power.

    If congressional Republicans commit suicide – all to the better! But I hope they do not take President Trump with them.

    • The problem is that the members of Congress do not want their power back.

      • Another problem is that we could wait quite a long time for an emperor willing to divesting himself of power and restore the republic. Tacitus hoped for such a restoration all his life. He was still waiting when he died. Three centuries after his death, he was still waiting. Sometimes our candidates for the purple talk about it, but once enthroned they never do it. And far from abdicating his power or reverting to Weichert’s 19th-century role, the current emperor has proven by word and deed that he intends to use it to its fullest.

      • What they don’t want back is their RESPONSIBILITY.
        As long as the film flam is working, and they can enjoy their opulent lifestyle, they will break their back to maintain the status quo.

  • The GOP in Congress needs to wake up and drink the covfefe.
    Has anyone wondered why half of voters still do not vote?

    • Covfefe, hee hee!

      Trump needs to drink a pot or two himself. Ryan and leadership are NOT his friends!

      Campaign-like confrontations with them would certainly rally those who put him in office!

  • Nice analysis, but you missed the biggest problem in the withering of the legislative branch which has been their unconstitutional delegation of lawmaking to the bureaucracy. Done not by the executive, but at the demand of Congress itself. (ACA had something like 500 uses of “the secretary may” or “shall” wrt the rules defining the structure of the program) aided and abetted by the courts.

    Its reprehensible yet understandable, because in our modern era of professional politicians the most important thing is to retain power and reward donors. Messy things like writing legislation, making laws that apply to all, often have innumerable nasty consequences, which could lead to losing an election. Better for our “representatives” to punt such power to the bureaucracy and thereby avoid accountability. With the bonus that they can then campaign against any negative results as not something they did and not the intentions of the law. An almost perfect con when you think about it. Besides, their time is better spent soliciting campaign donations and creating subterfuges to reward those donors.

    • Thanks for the read. Yes, another thing that I opted not to include due to the fact that I’m going over the requisite length for an article these days, is that most laws are not actually written by Congress. They outsource the meaty parts to being written by the former Congressional staffers-turned-lobbyists on K Street and they make all of these bills chock full of pork for their special interests.

      • Brandon, great write up. Sundance, over at CTH wrote up a great essay on this very thing last month… on the curiousness of how the Congress is unable to do any legislation b/c legislation is written by K-street, and since none of them wanted Trump… there is no legislation to put forward b/c no one in DC ran on or had written anything down like what Trump ran on or proposed. Good stuff if you ever read on it. Fits well with your post.

      • You seem to be describing corruption. Exhibit # 1, an 80,000 page tax code.

        Peter Schweitzer already wrote the book, ” Extortion “. He even made a number of excellent suggestions in the last chapter.

        It got as much publicity as Mark Levin’s, “The Liberty Amendments “.

        This country is in deep yogurt.

        Primary each Republican, Bravo.

      • Wouldn’t most of these problems go away if the unconstitutional portions of the federal govm’t were deleted? All the laws written on subjects that by 10th amendment belong to the states could be challenged by states attorneys general. We need a Supreme Court that actually believes in the founding document. With Soros spending tons of money on state atty gen elections, that action also is slipping away.

  • The FoxGOPutin committing sewerside is going to be fun to watch.

    • This is funner, and it has your name on it!!!

      President Trump’s greatest accomplishment to-date:

      Democrats and Entitlement Monkeys – in utter disarray and wee-wee’ing themselves daily!

      or, in a language specifically for liberals:

      President Trump’s greatest accomplishment to-date:

      Democrats and Entitlement Monkeys – in utter disarray and covfefe’ing themselves daily!

      • What the Fuch’s are Entitlement Monkeys. People draw the money put in withholding taxes for 40 or 50 yrs. Ayn Rand Ryan calls it an entitlement. I call it Social Security, an insurance plan, under funded because people like Hair Twitler don’t pay their fair share. You seem be looking out of shit covered glasses, snowflake. What do you call a conman’s mark? Look in the mirror and you will see a sucker. Do your friends know how gullible you are, Comrade?

      • You sure got crude in a hurry. Just guessing, but are you a proud progressive, aka a crooked hillary supporter?

      • You ‘misread’ my post, try it again. Also, it’s a well publicized fact that people of your ‘mental stature’ are frequently able to improve their reading comprehension if they move their lips while reading, so you should try that as well. If you’re unsure of the proper amount of lip movement, ask your boyfriend(s) for ‘feedback’.

        Here’s President Trump’s greatest accomplishment to-date, the one with your name on it:

        Democrats and Entitlement Monkeys – in utter disarray and wee-wee’ing themselves daily!

        or, in a language specifically for liberals:

        President Trump’s greatest accomplishment to-date:

        Democrats and Entitlement Monkeys – in utter disarray and covfefe’ing themselves daily!

  • The devolution of secondary law to the executive has indeed led to arbitrary and unaccountable government. The question is what to do about it. We can join Weichert in castigating “Congressional cowardice and incompetence”, but that’s not likely to even raise a blush on congressmen’s cheeks, much less actually fix the problem. We can primary our hate-objects, but again that’s not a remedy to the real problem, because the only hope it offers is reshuffling the deck in the probably-vain hope of a better hand.

    Weichert’s prescription – replacing people in the hope of better people – certainly derives from a long tradition of American republicanism which emphasizes personal virtue as the key to public probity. The problem is that, while we don’t actually know whether this is a question of the personal qualities of political leaders or a systemic fault, there is at least the strong possibility that it is the latter.

    What if the administration of the federal government is simply too complex, technical and multivarious for 535 politicians, who may but probably do not have administrative skills, to manage? In that case, no reshuffling of personalities in Congress will achieve the desired end. The only acceptable solutions are either that legislation, both primary and secondary, is made by representatives of the people, or that those who make it are held responsible to the representatives.

    If the former is impossible or implausible, then the latter must suffice. But here’s the rub: the Madisonian architecture, and its particular version of separation of powers, disallows executive responsibility to the legislative branch. Hearings, requests for information, ultimately the implausible sanction of impeachment, are demonstrably insufficient in the face of the imperial presidency. And the Madisonian constitution knows not the vote of confidence. In other words, it is at least possible that, whatever the case in the 19th century, the only solution now is systemic, not personal.

  • I hope, hope… that soon, a day will come when the Trump folks will say “enough” and actively start campaigning for primary challengers to unseat GOP and replace with the Trump wing of the New GOP. The GOP is wasting an entire year of Trumps’ term. Nothing will get done in the fall because to them, holidays and whatnot and oh, hey, there’s an election coming up to work on.

    I hope it’s before December that Trump cuts bait and goes nuclear with these jokers. Yes, there are risks, but I’d wager, that most, if not all, Trump voters will respond well to a campaign that emphasizes how Trump tried to work with them but they played games. Washington is corrupt…period. Drain the swamp… we need “new” blood and new leaders… not Democrats… we need Trump Republicans. Depends how much dirt Trump is amassing on folks too I guess… he may me acquiring great leverage as we ruminate..

    • We can and should start a new movement, “DRAIN THE REPUBLICAN SWAMP!” We need this slogan on a t shirt.

  • Every pro-Trump reader should calo Paul Ryan’s office and say thet are going to donate to Ryan’s primary challenger. Ryan yesterday in saying asking for loyalty was not appropriate delibrately took a step towarss impeachment. That was a big of stab as Ryan could do.

    202.225.3031

    • The mind boggles to think that Paul Ryan doesn’t remember the “loyalty pledge” he required from House members when he took on the Speaker’s role, nor the Committee heads he fired when they didn’t bow to his whims.

    • Paul ryan is as useless as mit romney. He has to go. Thanks for the number. I’ll call today.

    • And yet Trump sided with Ryan over the Freedom Caucus when HC legislation failed in the House?

  • Dear Mr. Weichert:

    While I agree with your analysis (particularly as amended via your exchange with Joshinca below) it seems to me that most people are missing an important piece of the motivational puzzle. The expression about thinking outside the box hints at it because congresscritters (pace Mark Twain), and those who work for them, are trapped in a kind of box made up from their assumptions and beliefs, the limits of expected media and social acceptability for divergent thought, and re-election concerns. Thus the range of ideas open to a critter caught between worries about how CNN, the hostess at tomorrow’s dinner, and the folks back home will react to those ideas is extremely limited – and those limitations show in their relative inability to exert much creative influence on the legislative process.

    Congresscritters who are afraid to originate become followers and critics – much as the people who review books typically lack the courage to write them but will happily tell others how to do so. Where there are willing followers, leaders will emerge: presidents, bureaucrats, lobbyists, etc., and that’s what we’ve been seeing.

    Newt Gingrich tried to address some of this via his various attempts at ” Ideas for America” websites, but between being shouted down in the media, inundated by the stupid, and swept aside by his own political needs his initiatives failed. Now, however, may be the time to try again – not that I know how, but maybe you do?

  • “Congressional Republicans Are Committing Political Suicide”

    No one ever accused RINOs of being “intelligent” … and that’s why Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House.

  • Amen! They are exposed. Like the dems they dont get it. Time to put up or get voted out and make way for new republicans who have the guts, dedication, and true love for our great country. It is time to make America great again.

  • We are witnessing an attempted coup by the democrat media to overturn a duly elected president. In essence what the media, the deep state, and the GOPe is saying is that what they want supersedes what the voters want. That elections don’t matter and they get to choose no matter what. The constitution be damned.

  • And much of the usurpation of power can be linked directly to Boehner’s punting to the SCOTUS on ObamaCare. That set the table that Congress had no interest in stopping the President’s overreach.

    Pitty that Trump linked up with and followed Ryan on legislation, rather than fighting the swamp monsters.
    This is why the GOP does not fear Trump. He’s following the RINOs instead of helping Conservatives drag them to the agenda voters approved of.

    The President should realize that the stench of the RINO does not wash off with swamp water, and THAT combination of smells simply drives Cons away for good.

    • So you actually voted for the destruction of Medicaid, Medicare and SS???? Seems I have read articles all over that that was not what the people voted on….

  • Great piece of writing. yes Congress has abdicated to the Executive and that needs to stop. The real power in DC is Congress, then the judiciary and lastly the executive.

  • Our dear leader is many things but power hungry isn’t one of them. Just look at his record.

  • This is EXACTLY RIGHT! Congress has delegated its primary Constitutional responsibilities to unelected agencies and bureaucracies, and spends most of its time, and our money, getting itself re-elected. That is one of the major reasons why we need *term limits*! Throw the bums out. Send them home and they’ll have no benefit any more for these illegal behaviors.

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