On Tuesday, November 7th, Americans will once again head to the polls to exercise one of the most important rights we possess. To be able to vote and voice our agreement or disagreement with the powers that be, or to vote our dissent against all candidates, is a very important component of our democratic system. We have a chance with this election to change the course (or if you are of the mind, "stay the course") our nation is taking with so many serious issues. As one of the recent political ads have stated “The Stakes Are Important”. Indeed they are, but not for the reasons the ad provided. We have I believe, a much more important issue at hand. Should we change the control of Congress in order to better govern the Executive Branch?
Many citizens such as myself are optimistic about this November’s election because we are hoping for a change of control of Congress. I am hopeful that we will see the Democrats obtain control of at least the House of Representatives. The reason is not so much that I think the Democrats have all the answers. I do not. The reason I want the Democrats to gain control of the House is that I want to see some oversight brought to the executive branch of the government. Mr. Bush’s presidency has for but for about one year enjoyed same party congressional leadership in both houses of Congress. Mr. Bush has effectively had a rubber stamp applied to his desires by an organization that was created to be a check or a governing factor against executive imperiousness.
As a nation, we have seen the Executive branch of the government claim more and more power with little resistence from the majority party in Congress. We have seen this President show disdain for the Constitution by saying "It’s just a goddam piece of paper!", and through the use presidential signing statements that in effect allows the President to give himself the ability to interpret the law.
Article one, section eight of the Constitution states: To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
The President can either sign the legislation, leave it unsigned, when after ten days, it is passed or he can veto the bill. The Congress can then choose to allow the veto to stand or can vote to override. If two-thirds of the Congress votes to override, then the legislation will stand.
The current occupant of the White House has found and easier way of working than complying with the Constitution. He simply ignores it. With this administration, the use of presidential signing statements has become a tool for interpreting laws as the President sees fit. He has written at least 130 signing statements issuing 750 executive challenges to the laws that he himself signed and is bound by Constitutional directive to execute.
For example, with regard to the amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill of 2005, sponsored by Senator John McCain prohibiting the inhumane treatment of detainees, the President had this to say:
"The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."
The signing statement basically says that the President shall construe (interpret, understand, take it to mean, whatever) Title X to mean whatever they believe it means. In other words, the executive branch shall construe Title X to mean whatever they want it to mean as long as it protects the American people from further terrorist attacks. So, as Mr. Cheney has so artfully described recently when asked about "dunking detainees in water" (his term for waterboarding),he replies "No Brainer!". As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
This Congress has allowed the power of the presidency to expand almost at will. Oh, there are occasional voices of disagreement that are heard. One of the few in Congress with any authority that will challenge the president is Senator Arlen Spector, but his arguments against the administrations have had little impact.
We must have oversight in Washington. Our legislature needs to govern itself better and rein in abuses of power by the executive branch. Some will say divided government will cause work to slow down and we’ll suffer “grid-lock” If the price of oversight comes in the form of grid-lock, then so be it. I do not however, believe that will be the case as history has shown us that divided government generally works well, and in some cases better than a government led by one political party.
Our nation must have a government that remains true to the principles and rules described in the Constitution. This Congress has failed in their responsibility to check the excesses of the executive branch. For that reason alone, the balance of power in Congress should shift to the Democrats this November.
Posted by Dennis at October 29, 2006 11:21 AM