Posts tagged ‘U.S. House’

01/14/2013

Need “Borrowing” Not “Debt” Ceiling

The “Debt Ceiling” is once again being debated in Congress, but it shouldn’t be, since we have no choice, but to pay the financial obligations we already have. Defaulting on our loans is not a realistic or responsible option as it would do nothing but lower our credit rating and trigger negative global responses.

The debate should instead occur much earlier whenever Congress borrows money.  If we are going to have a “ceiling,” it should be as to the amount we borrow. Whenever right-wing politicians vote for another war, or a new weapons system, without raising taxes to pay for them, they should first be required to raise a “Borrowing Ceiling.” This is where the issue might make a difference, since borrowing is not a necessity.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the power “to borrow money” is specifically delegated to the Congress (Art. I, Sec. 8). Congress must approve of any measure that causes borrowing. It is not a power assigned to the Executive. The President does not write the budget. The House must stop blaming the President for spending and they must face their constitutional duty to control it.

Right-wing politicians, who control the House, where all budget bills originate, are famous for supporting all sorts of wasteful military spending, without raising taxes, but once they authorize spending, it’s a waste of time to debate the issue of paying for the military toys previously purchased with a credit card.

It’s time for the Republican House to act like adults, take responsibility, and significantly cut the Defense Budget, or raise taxes to pay for the military spending they previously supported.

04/20/2012

Term Limits Needed in House & Senate

A Constitutional Convention is needed to amend the U.S. Constitution so we can limit U.S. House members to no more than six terms of two years each, and U.S. Senators to no more than two terms of six years each. Because incumbency has become a way of life in Washington, and the amount of money in politics has made it nearly impossible to defeat sitting U.S. Senators or House members, the Constitution must be amended to limit terms.

The idea of limiting terms is a good one that dates back to some of our Founding Fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, who urged the imposition of limits on the number of years Senators could serve.

Although no express limits were included in the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, our first 31 Presidents adhered to a tradition started by George Washington, who left office after eight years as Commander-in-Chief. When Franklin Roosevelt violated tradition and stayed more than 12 years, the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, constraining Presidents to two elected terms of four years each, or one elected 4-year term, if more than two years were already served from the term of the previous President.

Limiting the terms of U.S. House members and U.S. Senators would however prove to be much more difficult than what was done with Presidents. The problem is Constitutional Amendments typically start with a House bill that requires a two-thirds vote, and since the careers of those who wish to remain more than 12 years would be cut short by this Amendment, Representatives would have a direct conflict of interest, and the proponents of change would be unlikely to get enough votes to even get started.

The only alternative to the ordinary Amendment process is to convene a Constitutional Convention, pursuant to Art. V of the Constitution. If the legislatures in 34 states (two-thirds) vote in favor of convening a Constitutional Convention, representatives of all 50 states would be invited, and if an Amendment was introduced, the approval of 38 states (three-fourths) would be needed to make it a part of the Constitution.

Although most scholars agree an Amendment is needed, it will never start in Congress, and must instead begin with the introduction of an identical bill in 34 state legislative bodies, calling for a Constitutional Convention, strictly limited to one simply-worded Term Limit Amendment. The Amendment would then be submitted to all 50 states, and would become law when ratified by 38 states.

04/08/2012

Give Washington DC Congressional Vote

Although Congress gave the residents of Washington DC the right to vote in Presidential Primaries in 1955, and the 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, allows them to vote for President, the problem now is they still have no Senator, or voting member in the House, and do not enjoy the same degree of U.S. Citizenship available to other Americans in the 50 states.

Washington DC came into being, because Art I, Sec. 8 (17) of the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to create a seat for the federal government, which was to be no more than 10 square miles. Virginia and Maryland each donated land for the federal city in 1791, but Virginia took their 31 square miles back in 1847, and what remains is the part that came from Maryland.

One solution is to simply deed the District of Columbia back to Maryland, so those living in the capital can participate in state politics, be represented by U.S. Senators, and be able to select House members, whose standing would be no different than any other.

Another approach is for the District to remain a federal enclave, but to amend the Constitution by granting to the occupants of Washington DC the right to fully participate in Maryland politics, as if the seat of the government was still a part of Maryland.

There is really no good reason for continuing to deny the residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote for U.S. Senators and House members and it is time to make them full and complete U.S. Citizens.

03/30/2012

Republican Primary Doesn’t Matter

During the Wisconsin Presidential Primary next week, Republican voters will be asked to choose between Romney, Gingrich, Ron Paul and Santorum, but their selection will make little difference in the long run, for even if their nominee prevails in November, in the final analysis, their candidate will not be able to make any change without the help of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court.

For those who “vote for the man,” because they naively believe one person can single-handedly change the way things are, they have an awful lot to learn about party politics. What matters is not an individual win, but rather a victory by an entire political party. Real and significant change in America only occurs if the same party controls the House, 60% of the Senate (to block filibusters), the White House, and at least five Supreme Court seats.

Unless voters want divided and paralyzed governments, there is no rational reason to split tickets between Republicans and Democrats, by picking one party’s nominee for this office, and another party’s choice for that. Although many voters dislike both parties, one or the other is going to win and gain control, so it makes sense to learn their differences, and vote along party lines.

No matter who the Republicans nominate for President, if the conservatives continue to control the House, they will put their agenda to their leader, (not the other way around), and he will be expected to approve of it, whether it is Romney, Santorum, Paul, or Gingrich. The Presidency is much weaker than most realize.

When Obama became President, a Democratic Congress handed him legislative measures, during his first two years, like the health care bill, and he had no choice but to approve of it. If he had not, his own party would have turned on him. Although Obama wanted to close Guantanamo, Congress pulled the purse strings for that pledge, and consequently, the prison remains open, regardless of the President’s wishes, or his campaign promises.

If Romney becomes President, and has an opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, you better believe the entire Republican Party, including Bachmann, Santorum, and a whole host of right-wing fundamentalist ministers will be looking over his shoulder. One man in Washington DC simply has no power to do anything.

If you think you can change the basic two-party system, you have a boatload of work to do. The existing parties not only select nominees through caucuses and primaries, they draft platforms stating goals, but most importantly provide networks of volunteers locally to register voters, and make sure they vote on Election Day. Third-party candidates trying to operate outside one of the two major parties would find it extremely difficult to organize, without the help of the thousands who already share a party label.

While it is true George Washington, a Federalist, was first elected as an individual, Thomas Jefferson soon founded an opposition party, even though the Constitution did not mention their use, and for over 200 years, they have been an integral part of our system.

The head of political party, i.e. the President, or presidential candidate of the other party, matters far less than Congressional control. If you want to see change, the question is not who will win the upcoming Wisconsin Republican Presidential Primary; the important question is: After the 2012 election, which of the two major political parties will control the Congress?