Monday, December 22, 2008

US Congress Becoming the Roman Senate: No Real Power

I was wondering how, a week after the Senate shot down the bailout for the automotive industry, the Bush administration went ahead and bailed them out anyway? George F. Will takes notice in this Washington Post piece:

On Friday the president gave the two automakers access to money Congress explicitly did not authorize. More money -- up to $17.4 billion -- than had been debated, thereby calling to mind Winston Churchill on naval appropriations: "The Admiralty had demanded six ships: the economists offered four: and we finally compromised on eight."

The president is dispensing money from the $700 billion Congress provided for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The unfounded assertion of a right to do this is notably brazen, given the indisputable fact that if Congress had known that TARP -- supposedly a measure for scouring "toxic" assets from financial institutions -- was to become an instrument for unconstrained industrial policy, it would not have been passed.

For decades, imperatives of wars hot and cold, and the sprawl of the regulatory state, have enlarged the executive branch at the expense of the legislative. For eight years, the Bush administration's "presidentialists" have aggressively wielded the concept of the "unitary executive" -- the theory that where the Constitution vests power in the executive, especially power over foreign affairs and war, the president is immune to legislative abridgements of his autonomy.

The administration has not, however, confined its aggrandizement of executive power to national security matters. According to former representative Mickey Edwards in his book "Reclaiming Conservatism," the president has issued "signing statements" designating 1,100 provisions of new laws -- more designations than have been made by all prior presidents combined -- that he did not consider binding on him or any other executive branch official.

A healthy Republic needs its Legislative Branch. Lame Duck Bush is spending unprecendeted amounts of the public's money, seemingly illegally and law makers are standing by without comment. Is anybody paying attention? Does anybody care? Where are the checks and balances?


  1. This is the big reason voter turn outs are falling. 60% of Americans were against the bailout, the Senate voted against it, and they get the money anyways. Bottom line your vote is worthless. It is only simple minded people that actually believe their vote is worth something. Everyone else realizes if you want something done, you better hire a lobbyist.

  2. Anon, you're one of the reasons the internet is so unreliable. Do the smallest amount of research instead of whining like a baby.

    Voter turnout is back to historical levels. Plus democracy isn't about the vote. Voting is almost half-way symbolic. As the post notes, the power is in the institutions, but particularly the design of the bureaucracy. Is there competing power centers, etc? Name one system that is working better at this point. One.

    I can picutre Anonymous at the local pub now, droning about whatever subject he/she knows zero about, and boring the shit out of everyone around them.

  3. Personal ad-hominym attacks really lower the debate.

    Also, with those new number crunches, you site it shows 62% voter turn out, accoring to their updated formula. That's something to boast about?

    I don't think he's trying to say there is better systems than democracy but that this one is slipping. How about addressing the point about the clear decline of Congress?

  4. Something from Anon is personal how? This whole thing is impersonal.

    Decline, decline...when was it ever so powerful? How is the power to 535 reps to be turned up? Quoting George Will doesn't make it all so. How about getting rid of pork for a start, for many pork IS democracy.

    Bush just ran rampant over them and it's a problem, let's see if O give all the power back.

  5. Fydor: Decline, decline...when was it ever so powerful? How is the power to 535 reps to be turned up? Quoting George Will doesn't make it all so. How about getting rid of pork for a start, for many pork IS democracy.

    ----> 1. Your not making sense. It's one of the three branches of government. 2. And quoting George Will is something, because he is questioning what's going on out there. You have to have an informed public. 3. And I'm talking about pork here.

  6. There's one or three branches on the pork tree?
    Seriously though, Congress is getting more pork than ever, but is losing it's power. THAT doesn't make sense. The executive branch is merely buying them off too.

    Bottom line is that there is far too much emphasis on short term gains, like pork for a constituency than long term for the country. Congress is incentivized to go short term.