February 25, 2013

Recovered history: When sequestration began

Tony Blankley, Newsmax, July 2011 - How have we arrived at this place where the fate of our federal budget — our economy, indeed our capacity to have a functioning federal government — seems to depend on what two men (the speaker of the House and the president) may or may not be secretly talking about in an interior room in the White House?

Meanwhile, elected representatives and senators, kept ignorant of those life-and-death discussions, are forced to wait. When the two men are finished — doubtlessly mere hours before "the world will end" — our elected representatives and senators will be stampeded to vote yes for a deal about which no one knows the details. Cattle may need to be stampeded; elected representatives of the American people never should be so compelled…

Government by the elected representatives of the people is coming to be government by two (or three or four) men in a secret room pronouncing the new law that will be rubber-stamped — or else…

Regular order is a Washington term of art that means the exact opposite of the writing of a bill in secret by a few congressional leaders and the president. It means letting each house of Congress introduce bills, hold open committee hearings, mark up the legislation in public, vote for it, and then send it to the floor, where it is discussed openly and then voted for and sent to the president for signature.

Both former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and current Speaker Boehner have called for "regular order," as opposed to secret deals.

Boehner said a few years ago: "We need to stop writing bills in the speaker's office and let members of Congress be legislators again. Too often, in the House right now, we don't have legislators; we just have voters . . . The institutions of the House that have grown up over 200 years of trial and error are the best to test those ideas and policies. We don't need five members sitting behind a closed door writing a bill," as they did with the stimulus and Obamacare. "It's nuts."

Twenty years ago, that would have been a commonplace observation. But in the past two decades, both Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses have increasingly resorted to secret meetings and forced deals…

Each time we have one of these secret deal negotiations — instead of regular order — the magnitude of the proposed change in our way of life gets bigger, and the process gets more exclusive and sloppier. This is not only bad legislating but also dangerous to our constitutional process.

The Roman Republic eventually, during the first century B.C., gave way to imperial dictatorship, as the Senate more and more yielded to generals and strongmen to fix the various financial and land distribution problems; the Senate lost the will and capacity to fix itself.

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