The Freak Show: Let The Games Begin

—by , January 13, 2011

The new congress has been seated, and the posturing has begun. Everyone is talking about a new spirit of cooperation between the parties, but their actions speak louder than the hollow words that are coming out of the mouths of the party leaders.

The Democrats actually started the shenanigans by calling a vote on a tax bill that would have eliminated the tax cuts for those making over $250,000. They knew full well that it wouldn’t pass, but wanted to get their votes on record. All it did was piss off the Republicans before a compromise was worked out with President Obama.

But the incoming Republicans are taking showmanship to a new level. In an obvious ploy to the right wing of the party, and especially the Tea Party adherents, incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner is making sure everyone sees his allegiance to their pledge that the U.S. Constitution will be strictly adhered to by the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Boehner is bringing in conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia to teach to freshmen congressmen, and others in the so-called “constitutional conservative caucus.”

Additionally, he has stipulated that all new bills will have to be. To get everyone on sure footing, he is having the read aloud from the floor of the House of Representatives.

“Congress should adhere to the Constitution and the finite list of powers it granted to the federal government,” a representative of the Republicans stated. “This historic and symbolic reading is long overdue and shows that the new majority in the House truly is dedicated to our Constitution and the principles for which it stands.”

I am certainly in favor of our government sticking by the Constitution. After all, that’s what our country is based on in terms of laws and the organization of our unique system of government. However, I find it offensive that we are paying these people extremely lucrative salaries, not too mention the outrageous perks, pensions, and health care they get, and they are spending time learning about the Constitution. There’s serious work to be done with all the problems we are facing as a country, and if any of these individuals don’t already know what the Constitution says, and what their duties are, they should never have run for high office. They are wasting our money doing what every freshman political science major does in college. Do they really think Americans will be impressed that they are spending time boning up on something that they should already know?

Perhaps if certain issues and aspects of the document were raised it would be helpful to some of them. But I fail to see what benefits it brings to listen to the reading of the things such as the 18th Amendment, which set forth Prohibition, and then the 21st Amendment, which repealed it.

Much of the Constitution, genius though it may be, is a product of its time. Article I, Section 9, for example, banned the importation of slaves after 1808. And then there’s the paragraph known as the “three-fifths compromise,” which gave Southern states more seats in Congress by counting slaves as partial people. It states, ”Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

Then there’s the fugitive slave clause. “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” Yep, it’s in there.

Perhaps the Republicans will enjoy the 14th Amendment: Perhaps a Democrat will want to read it given that many Tea Party supporters and some Republican leaders have suggested that it not be the case. What does it do? It guarantees to the children of undocumented immigrants. Apparently they want to follow the Constitution when it suits them, and not follow it when it doesn’t.

And here’s a good one… our good Republicans are at the forefront of wanting to keep “God” in the classroom and public life. But the Constitution is clear what the presidential oath of office is supposed to state. It reads: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

There is no “So help me God,” a phrase traditionally added by all the elected presidents. So, do they want stick to the letter of the document, or change things as they see fit?

The Republicans have already added a new rule to all bills that come up in the House of Representatives. Starting this month, the sponsor of each new bill will have to identify, chapter and verse, the constitutional underpinning for the exercise of congressional power contemplated by the proposed measure.

This is another waste of time and money, all for the sake of appeasing the right wing and Tea Party supporters. It’s supposed to be up to the Judicial branch to determine if something the Legislative or Executive branch enacts is unconstitutional. And since each and every congressman has already taken the pledge of office in which they solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution, so anything they introduce has to, at least in their opinion, already uphold that standard.

Additionally, there has been debate, and untold legal proceedings, to determine the constitutionality of many laws and actions, ranging from slavery to segregation, and taxation and state’s rights, among other issues. If these things can’t be determined without great debate and court decisions, how in the world can our elected officials be expected to make their own determination and insert it into the bill before it can be introduced? It’s an exercise in futility.

Is it too much to ask our elected representatives to stop with the childish games, the showmanship, and the posturing, and get on with the serious business of governing?


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