We live in a time where nothing is getting done in Congress. So I decided to investigate the role of Congress in our government of checks and balances, and see what they are supposed to be doing; what I discovered was more disillusioning than enlightening:
Congress has the power to:
- Make laws
- Declare war
- Raise and provide public money and oversee its proper expenditure
- Impeach and try federal officers
- Approve presidential appointments
- Approve treaties negotiated by the executive branch
- Oversight and investigations
Then I thought, who performs oversight on Congress when “oversight” (in the form of excessive investigations) is all they seem to be doing? The answer is: we do. That’s right; we get to vote out Congress when we don’t like how they are doing their jobs. Given that we still have 1.5 years to try to free ourselves of their ineptitude, is there something I’m missing? Is there no way to get them to do their jobs?
For now, let’s take a closer look at the power of Congress. The first power given to them is to “make laws”; in checking on their success at passing laws, I was not encouraged:
Ahead of the Memorial Day recess, and nearly halfway through the year, Congress has only passed 17 laws. Major laws that the 116th Congress has passed include reopening the government following the shutdown, a bipartisan public lands measure, and changes to Medicaid. Some of the other laws passed changed the address of a post office in Charlottesville, Virginia, created an award for classified school employees like security officers and cafeteria workers, and clarified the grade and pay of podiatrists in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Then again, is the measure of Congressional success the number of laws that are passed? After all, the economy is great but we are severely in debt. Besides, what can you expect from a Congress that essentially works only three days per week?
The next “power” that Congress has is to declare war. We’ll skip that one since I think everyone on the Left and Right agrees that declaring war would not be a wise decision.
The next power is “raising and providing public money and overseeing its proper expenditure.” Democrats would be delighted to raise money by taxing everyone and everything in sight; when it comes to overseeing expenditures, I don’t think anyone is much interested in taking that step; we don’t even operate with a budget.
Now the next one has potential: let’s impeach someone! Any suggestions? As long as Nancy Pelosi is in a tug-o-war with her caucus, we’ll have to take a wait-and-see position. Meanwhile, their faux impeachment investigations will continue.
The next power is approving presidential appointments, where we have made some progress. Senator McConnell has done a great job of filling judicial positions. I’m not sure that he’s doing much else, but we must give him credit for that accomplishment.
Regarding the approval of treaties, I don’t think anyone in either the House or the Senate or the President himself knows what a treaty is anymore. I guess the latest one waiting to be considered is the USMCA; on both sides of the aisle, some people love it, some people hate it. I don’t know if it matters since they probably won’t put it up for a vote any time soon.
And the last power of Congress is “oversight and investigations.” Now we’re talking! At least a half dozen Congressional committees are investigating Trump. They insist that Trump is guilty of multiple crimes and misdemeanors. And they won’t give up until they find them.
Meanwhile, the only oversight we can provide over Congress is at the ballot box. I’m not happy with any of them, Democrats or Republicans, Left or Right, Senators or Representatives. The Democrats seem to be overcome by hatred, the Republicans by fecklessness.
I think it’s time to clean house.
In 2020.Published in