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Posted by on Sep 24, 2008 in Uncategorized | 19 comments

It’s About Time Congress Acted Like Congress

In the context of the proposed massive bailout for our ailing financial system and its troubled actors, I’m thrilled to see members of Congress — Republicans as well as Democrats — pushing back on the Executive Branch’s proposed plan.

If members of Congress, regardless of party, had upheld their constitutionally-prescribed powers five years ago, we might have never invaded Iraq or be in various other predicaments in which we now find ourselves. The elevation of party loyalties over constitutional powers has possibly hurt us more than we will ever know.

Former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards — who contributes to the same forum linked above and is a bona-fide conservative (he was a former national chairman of the American Conservative Union and one of three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation) — wrote a book, published earlier this year, titled Reclaiming Conservatism. One of TMV’s readers (I regret I can’t remember who) suggested I check it out. I did, and am about a third of the way through it now. It’s a brilliant treatise — and here’s a gem from page 79, written in the context of the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice, but certainly applicable to the broader scope of failures by Republican members of Congress to put their constitutional obligations ahead of their party fealty between ’00 and ’06:

What had happened was precisely what James Madison had warned against — the triumph of factionalism. ‘Solidarity’ with one’s party had become more important than the obligation of Congress to act as a body separate from, and completely equal to, the presidency. The separation of powers had taken a back seat to the quest for political domination, and Republican members of Congress increasingly looked like members of the White House staff.

No more. And yes, it’s about time. I honestly don’t care if this delayed rebellion delays the bailout. Congress shouldn’t wait too long, but they also should not act too hastily or in lockstep with the President. It’s their job to question and debate and refine … to check and balance.

Unfortunately, it seems once again that this revitalization of Congress’ rightful powers has only been possible after the re-establishment of split-party government. As Edwards demonstrates in his book, things weren’t always that way. There have been times when members of Congress have placed their constitutional obligations first, before party.

I’m not naive enough to believe the Democrats will be different — but let’s at least hope they are, if/when Obama wins the White House and his party broadens its locus of control over both chambers of Congress. The latter will prove its worth if it does what its Republican ’00-’06 counterpart did not — namely, if it refuses to rubber-stamp the ideas of its same-party Commander-in-Chief.