A possible slide toward one-branch government
The only branch taking charge of things is the executive branch. It is hard to say with the judicial branch because we do not see their actions as easily, but for sure Congress has lost all of its power and does not realize this fact.
It is possible I worry too much, but I think not.
The more I watch Congress, the less power Congress seems to have. They get face time on the networks talking but not acting as a Congress. Remember, there are three equal branches of government that, in theory, hold each other in balance. But in the last three years this Congress has stopped functioning. Their primary role is the federal budget. But no federal budget has been passed in three years. Our country languishes in a neverland of uncertainty while Congress does not do its duty.
The lack of a federal budget has caused many subtle changes in the way our country operates. There are many governmental contracts still valid but not funded. Companies are trying to guess when Congress will return to work, but no one knows. Congress postures the debt ceilings but does nothing until the last moment and then continues the charade of leadership.
Again, maybe I worry too much. In the last three years Congress has been neutered in their role to advise and consent the president’s choices for governmental rule makers. This president just makes czars out of people, which, in effect, circumvents the congressional power. The czars act like cabinet members but are not vetted.
Finally, rulemaking in the government is now done through presidential findings and agency rule changes made outside of Congress. Americans deal with entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency that command obedience. No longer are citizens able to debate the possible rules in congressional hearings.
It seems we have a one-branch government or the makings of one. The only branch taking charge of things is the executive branch. It is hard to say with the judicial branch because we do not see their actions as easily, but for sure Congress has lost all of its power and does not realize this fact.
The Supreme Court is set to rule on the health-care legislation, which passed without anyone in Congress reading the entire 2,700 page bill. The members of Congress all admit there was not time to read it from when it was placed for a vote. We are still being surprised at what is in those 2,700 pages.
As I just said, the Supreme Court is set to rule, but the buzz is that if they rule against the executive branch, the executive branch will institute the intent of the legislation via executive findings and agency rules. That would make the judicial and legislative branches of government irrelevant. No one seems concerned about the concentration of power in one branch.
Someone else in control
Congress losing power has come in ways most people do not realize. The day-by-day working members of Congress spend three days in Washington and four days back in the districts, which makes for great local press opportunities. But four days a week someone else has their hands on the control of our country. The rank and file continuously campaign at home, away from the halls of power.
Know this: Most constituents and many of the members of Congress think having the Congress spend four days every week in the home district is a good thing. They talk of being better in touch with the electorate. That argument does not resonate for me because it leaves the power to govern in the hands of a few members of the congressional leadership, the bureaucracy and the never sleeping, never blinking executive branch.
The way I see government as really serving the people is for the Congress to work day by day among themselves in Washington as to what is the legitimate role of government in a free society. They need the time with each other to work out legislative issues. This does not happen when they dash into Washington for three frantic days and then dash home.
It would be better for them to work three straight weeks in Congress with each other and then spend one week back in the district. Of course, first, if they want to be relevant, they must pass a budget. If not, they can just spend seven days a week back in the district.
Maybe I worry too much – or not enough.
Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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