Checks and balances are a cornerstone of the American democratic experience. As you may remember from grade school, there exists 3 branches of government for this very reason. Efforts to subvert this philosophy ultimately lead to a less secure nation along with policies that might not be in the best interest of the people.
It’s easy to see mistakes of the past. Not as much for those of the future. Wise people realize early on, the importance of good counsel and the importance of displaying humility in victory as well as defeat. They know that there may come a time when the shoe will be on the other foot, and fortunes might be reversed.
Democrats Haunted by a 2013 Vote to Decrease Needed Votes for Approving Cabinet Appointees
In 2013, Democrats made a decision that they are now coming to regret. While in control of the Senate, they voted to allow a 51 vote majority for Cabinet-level appointees as well as judicial nominations. Also known as a nuclear option, the move allowed them to make unilateral choices that to some party members, seemed like a bad idea that might eventually come back to bite them. That day has come.
With Republicans owning 52 seats, there is literally “nothing” they can do to stop or even slow down these Republican nominations and appointees.
“I do regret that,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat who voted for the rules change three years ago. “I frankly think many of us will regret that in this Congress because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency break, to have in our system to slow down nominees.”
Some Democrats realize they’ve made life harder for themselves.
“In specific circumstances, we may regret that we can’t block a nomination,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut. “But I think that the American people want action, and they want the process to work. And they want the folks whom they have elected to actually do the job and get stuff done.”
One person who seems to be having buyer’s remorse over the change in filibuster rules: Sen. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Democratic leader. Schumer told The Washington Post last month that he privately lobbied Senate Democrats in 2013 to maintain the 60-vote threshold for Cabinet-level nominees, but: “I didn’t prevail.” More…
While policy and government must be fluid and open to the ideas of change, there are absolutely checks and balances established by our country’s forefathers, in order to save us from ourselves. They knew that an unbalance of power has the potential to lead to great conflict.
Vermont Governor Attempting to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy 4 Months After His Retirement
Another example of this assumption of power at the expense of well-established systems of checks and balances comes from soon to be retired Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. Set to retire on January 5th, 2017, he is attempting to appoint a Supreme Court Justice although the current judge will still be in office at the time of Shumlin’s departure.
Two days before he steps down, Gov. Peter Shumlin will need to convince the Vermont Supreme Court that he has the legal right to appoint a replacement for retiring Justice John Dooley. The court has temporarily blocked Shumlin from picking a new justice in response to a legal challenge from House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton).
Dooley announced in September that he would retire when his term ends on March 31, 2017. Shumlin raised some Republican hackles by promptly declaring that he would pick Dooley’s successor. Now, the outgoing governor will spend his final days in office defending his decision in court — a hearing is scheduled for January 3.
“By looking to make a consequential executive decision that should rightly be made in April 2017, at a time well past his gubernatorial tenure, Gov. Shumlin is setting a troubling precedent of overreach,” Turner said in a statement announcing his legal challenge. Article here…
Term Limits and the Popular Vote for President
On the other side of the coin are ideas that would make the United States more democratic and safe, but have little chance of actually passing. Two such ideas are term limits for the House and Senate and a popular vote for president.
Would Term Limits Make for a Better System of Government?
“D.C. is broken,” Cruz said in a statement Tuesday evening. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis introduced a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that would impose term limits on members of Congress, following through on their December announcement about the proposal.
“The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people. It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions.”
The proposal would limit senators to two terms (12 years total) and representatives to three terms (six years total). President-elect Trump campaigned on reining in Congress by implementing term limits, though it is unclear if the incoming administration has been involved in the proposal, which comes during Congress’ first week in session this year. Read more…
While establishing term limits means people would be voting themselves out of a job (though there would undoubtedly have to be exceptions in order for such a proposal to move forward), changing from an electoral college to a pure popular vote for President is not as far off as you might think.
Eliminating the Electoral College does not even require a constitutional amendment. An effort known as The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among several U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote. Once states totaling 270 electoral votes join the compact–which only requires passing state laws– then the next presidential election will be determined the the popular vote, not the Electoral College. More Here…
There will always be those who seek to impose their will on others, and government is no different. The real cause of concern is security. It makes us unsafe and even hypocritical to Democracy when we let any person subvert laws established to keep us from facing the type of tyranny our ancestors knew all to well. The not so distant history has shown us that when power is out of balance, the people (not the politicians) end up fighting the wars, and it is often our best and brightest that die in these conflicts.
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