Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Catherine Rampell asks whether America need its Congress

One of Scriber’s favorite authors is Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post. This morning, in the Daily Star, she suggests that What America really needs to do is abolish Congress. Here is her reasoning.

The far right wants to eliminate what it considers the vestigial organs of government, including the Education, Commerce and Energy departments. The far left wants to abolish ICE.

They’re both thinking too small. What America really needs to do — and what might actually receive strong bipartisan support — is to abolish Congress.

Sure, you might argue that the legislative branch has critical responsibilities, endowed by our sacred Constitution. Congress is an equal branch of government, providing checks and balances .

Without Congress, you might ask, wouldn’t the president have completely free rein to act on his worst authoritarian impulses? But then again, you might also ask: How would that be different from the situation we have now?

Why, just a few days ago, the legislature proved how little interest it has in exercising one of its most fundamental constitutional powers, the power of the purse.

… Trump announced that he was declaring a “national emergency” to commandeer $8 billion …

Federal lawmakers should have been livid at this power grab. Curiously, many were not. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — one of the most powerful people in this supposedly powerful branch of government — declared this a splendid outcome.

… this is not the only duty our derelict lawmakers have abdicated. Declaring war when we are, in fact, at war comes to mind. As does, say, exercising the authority to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations” and lay import duties.

… Congress turned a blind eye as Trump abused even that generously re-delegated authority. Here, too, Trump cited similarly bogus “national security” rationales to justify his overreach. Yet in response, Republican lawmakers — members of a party that once embraced free trade and sounded the alarm about an “imperial presidency” — have introduced legislation that would give the president even more discretion to levy tariffs without their OK.

… perhaps they believe their laziness on most legislative concerns is offset by their recent hyperactivity on one particular duty. The Senate has, after all, been rubber-stamping judicial nominees at a record pace.

Even so, it’s hard to argue that they’re performing much actual work in this capacity, given that the Republican-led Senate’s judicial confirmation decisions could easily be replaced by a simple software algorithm: If the judge is nominated by a president from our party, vote yea; if not, vote nay (or better yet, don’t allow a vote at all). Lots of other American jobs will be replaced by automation ; adding “federal lawmaker” to the list would likely draw few objections.

So here’s my question to you, fellow taxpayers. If lawmakers are not going to perform their most basic constitutional functions, then what are we paying them (at minimum) $174,000 a year to do? We might as well can them all and save the money.

Don’t believe me? Look at the polling. A mere 11 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress, which ranks it lower than any other major U.S. institution — including the presidency, banks, military, public schools or even (gasp) newspapers.

Which suggests that there’s at least one impressive feat Congress can still claim. It has managed to unite nearly all Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — around a common purpose: Throw the bums out.

But we can be even more imaginative locally. What if we just take the same approach to our state legislature? Think of what we could do with the savings.

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