Congress

The Problem Is Legislative Overreach, Not Executive


- March 6th, 2019
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In 1975, two years after Richard Nixon negotiated the Paris Accords and ended the war in the Vietnam, the Communist North Vietnamese reneged and invaded South Vietnam. Instead of defending the South as Nixon promised we would do in this event, President Gerald Ford looked on helplessly as the Democratic Congress would not permit it. At the same time, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and turned the country into a death camp. Because the Democrats hated Nixon and Republicans, and saw no political advantage to intervening, they permitted our allies to be slaughtered and enslaved.

A year later, in 1976, Ford signed the National Emergency Powers Act, which would allow special powers for the president should this kind of emergency arise and the legislature decides to play politics as people die or great injustices occur.

Trump Is Right on the Law and the Merits
President Trump’s recent decision to invoke this act and fund a border wall was in response to the Democrats in Congress refusing to cooperate. As a matter of course, Democrats have answered with a resolution against this use of funds, and many groups took legal action against the Trump Administration which will ultimately suspend progress on the wall for many months until the matter is brought to the Supreme Court.

Democrats, who supported a wall until Trump agreed with them, have no good argument against its construction now. Concerns over its effectiveness or cost are outrageously hypocritical in light of the endorsement of so many of the same people for the Green New Deal, which would cost trillions and do next to nothing for the environment (but still ruin the economy and monitor cow emissions). If it’s a choice between protecting Americans or sticking it to Trump, they will always pick the latter.

Republicans largely have supported President Trump, but they do not have the numbers to overcome the other side. Conservative commentators, and more than a few Republican senators, have expressed some worries about executive overreach and abusing the National Emergency Powers Act to circumvent the legislative process. After all, if Trump declares this a national emergency, what is to stop a Democrat from doing something similar with gun control or environmental regulations, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened (read: promised)?

On the technical points of law, Trump is well within his rights. Even opponents of his action concede as much; though NeverTrumpers like David French will still try to concoct legal arguments that might work (one hopes that someone’s at least paying him for this). The fact that President Obama also declared emergencies and, moreover, issued unconstitutional executive orders during his presidency and even bragged about doing so seems to diminish any seriousness of Democratic opposition now.

On points of principle, these arguments are misguided or outright wrong. If anyone has abused their power, it has been the legislature—and the judiciary, but people have grown accustomed to this two step by now. As these institutions failed to uphold the promise to the South Vietnamese over 40 years ago, our Congress today fails to uphold their promise to Americans by refusing even to debate in good faith the matters about which they were elected to legislate.

Constitutional Infidelities
Trump offered many chances for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress to agree to something, but Pelosi knew she didn’t have to negotiate because no one would hold her accountable. Predictably, she shut down the government and, with a generous boost from the corporate media, she blamed Trump. By now, Americans, even ones who should know better, have accepted this narrative.

For those who swear by the U.S. Constitution and its ineffable judgment, the lack of accountability in the legislature should reveal a huge flaw that cannot be corrected with more constitutional fidelity. As it stands, the legislative branch has enough power to expand government, increase spending, and block important reforms, but not enough power actually to help the nation. The system of checks and balances James Madison intended has degenerated into partisan gridlock that inevitably hurts normal Americans.

This is because the federal government has grown substantially since its founding, and the states now have far less power. Two centuries ago, people viewed their federal legislators as marginal officials who would represent them as they voted on relatively remote questions that had little bearing on their states or their daily lives—a bit like U.N. ambassadors. Today, these legislators represent special-interest groups, not their states, and vote on all matters affecting their constituents; the states in turn have to acquiesce and pay the tab.

To make matters worse, most Americans don’t even know who represents them and they continue electing incumbents or politicians with hyped up mega-funded campaigns. For example, Texans may know Senator Ted Cruz, but many will struggle recognizing Senator John Cornyn. Out of 38 U.S. representatives in Texas, even an informed voter may know only two—freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, who is no longer a congressman but campaigns for a living. In both cases, these are the only ones who go on national television to say anything. The other congressmen have just as much authority, and most have spent far more time doing the same job—Don Young (an ironic name) has represented Alaska in Congress since the Nixon Administration and is running for reelection next year.

The lack of accountability (indeed, virtual anonymity) for legislators results in an elite class of politicians almost completely disconnected from reality. The recent filibuster against a bill that would keep babies alive who survive abortions—as opposed to murdering them—is the latest example of this. Votes in favor of increasing spending and entitlements when the national debt already exceeds $22 trillion, and, yes, incoherent immigration laws, also betray a pattern of fantasy thinking.

Consequently, all the Democratic senators now offering themselves as presidential candidates—coming as they do from this mix— have bad records and even worse judgment. Only a senator could be deluded enough to support socialism, or propose open borders, or make up imaginary ancestry or imaginary friends, or advocate reparations for slavery 150 years after it was abolished—and only a senator could get away with it.

With Great Responsibility Should Come Great Power
By contrast, a Republican president will face full scrutiny at all times. Besides what he does as president, Americans will know President Trump’s romantic partners, his business history, the doings of everyone in his family tree, his dietary restrictions, and every rumor circulated about him and his family. When he runs for reelection next year, everyone will expect him to account for every one of these musings while his opponent will make ridiculous promises that the mainstream media doubtlessly will pound into normal currency.

Jesus, and Peter Parker’s uncle, once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” However, the reverse is also true: with great responsibility should come great power.

Burdened with so much responsibility, President Trump should have the power to carry out the promises he was elected to fulfill, particularly when it comes to a wall that would stop illegal immigration and help facilitate much-needed immigration reform that respects America’s sovereignty over the question. Conversely, those who have no such responsibility should be ignored, or at least overruled.

In a country plagued with corrupt legislators who shirk their responsibilities and a biased media that is every bit as beholden to the special interests propping up the legislature, it has become clear that Americans are safer putting their trust in the president than in Congress—particularly when that Congress is filled with today’s Democrats.

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais – Pool /Getty Images

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