Beyond the Cusp

November 23, 2013

The Debate is Cloture and Not the Filibuster

The main reason that the mainstream media is talking about the Senate changing the rules on the practice of filibuster is due to their being too lazy to explain what the Senate really did and actually educate the people who might not be as up on their United States Constitution as used to be the norm earlier in American history. The Senate changed the rules on cloture which is the means by which a filibuster is ended, not prevented or even stopped dead but ended with a possibility of allowing limited debate time to each Senator if the rules so permit. So, let us take a short trip back through history, and I promise to try to be brief. When the Constitution was ratified and became the founding document for the governance of the United States in 1789 there were no rules limiting debate in any manner. Senators could talk on any legislation pending before that august body until the cows came home and beyond. That was the beauty of the Constitution and the original interpretation of the idea that the House of Representatives was a rough and tumble and coarser body while the Senate was proper and deliberative with cordial rules and mutual respect, a far cry from what we have today and even originally. Do not for one second believe that American politicking has become raucous and vile only in the recent past as it actually has become more sensitive and polite. Nobody is referring to the other candidate for President of being a hermaphrodite or of being the son of a half-breed Indian squaw. To quote the two gentlemen in question behind those remarks, and they are to this day considered gentlemen though I doubt the shorter of the two would have agreed with such a description when he was alive; the Jefferson campaign described President Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman,” and Adams in return defined Vice President Jefferson as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Yes, believe it or not these were the President and Vice President of the United States at that time as originally the candidate with the most votes became President and the candidate who came in second became the Vice President but we obviously changed that as it became a tad unworkable and obviously so. The Twelfth Amendment in 1804 put this problem to rest allowing for separate ballots for President and Vice President but did not dictate that the two office holders be from the same party, it is still possible though unlikely that the President and Vice President could come from different parties.

Back to the “nuclear option” voted on by the Senate this past week. The Senate rules call for a simple majority vote with limited debate for any motion to alter, add or deduct from the rules under which the Senate operates thus making any chance for a filibuster basically mute. Because of that the Democrats with their four seat advantage won the passage of the new rules by a 52-48 vote. President Obama took the opportunity to continue his war against the minority Republicans in the Senate in a short speech after which he delegated a person to answer any questions in what has become a normal routine of never allowing the President to be questioned by the press directly or be allowed to ever go off of the carefully scripted words on his teleprompter. Sometimes I think that it would be both revealing and educational allowing for the truthful revelation of the character and inner feelings of a President if it were required that he take a session answering press questions at least once each month and could be required when asked to appear before either branch of Congress to answer questions on any legislation brought to the floor by request of the White House or any member of the President’ own party. Any additional information that is revealed concerning a President’s inner feelings, ability to think quickly and respond to unexpected queries and situations as well as anything that fills the people with additional truths about the person supposedly running the nation and being the face of the American people and the nation on the world’s stage should be encouraged, even mandated. The Senate changing the rules such that a cloture vote which restricts virtually ending debate on appointment for judgeships and other posts to a simple majority has basically changed the process into simply the Senate being a rubber stamp for all but the absolute worst nominations, and even then it might be questionable if the Democrats would not simply bow before the President’s will. This may prove to be catastrophic or it may simply end up as a tempest in a teapot, it all depends on which appointments now gain affirmation who might have been prevented by a Republican or a single Democrat deciding to filibuster the nomination. This I just one more time will tell and I have found that time usually tells long after anybody is paying attention. A perfect example, except that people are paying attention, is Kathleen Sebelius and the catastrophic rollout of Obamacare. Had that gone relatively smoothly with only minor glitches we would have never known how vacuous that woman is and how Health and Human Services is being directed by an incompetent who appears incapable of managing a major project any better than a junior project manager in training.

 

There will be some commentators and political talking heads who will go off the deep end and erroneously relate that this move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was unconstitutional and that the Constitution enumerates the right and procedures known as the filibuster and cloture vote. They are mistaken at best and intentionally misleading at worst. The truth is that the Constitution says absolutely nothing about either process by name. Under the Constitution the original Senate had absolutely no limit on the length of the debate thus allowing every Senator and thus every State to have ample time to discuss and debate the merits of legislation and even return home to get their marching orders from the State Legislatures which chose the Senators. The Senate under Article I, Section 5, Clause 3 was empowered to write its own rules concerning debate and the procedures which govern the same. The Senate adopted its first anti-filibuster rule in 1917 calling such a procedure cloture. Traditionally the cloture vote has taken some form of supermajority in order to shut down debate. The rules of the Senate, according to the writings of the Founders, was to be a more deliberative body which fully debated legislation thus allowing the Senate to reject any legislations which was passed under emotional or other reaction to momentary events and to represent the individual States within the Federal Government such that the States would be protected from the rapacious appetite for power and dominion by any Congress or President. It is interesting that the initial limitation to debate came in 1917, four years after the ratification of one of the most destructive laws to ever make its way onto the books, let alone the Constitution, the Amendment XVII which forever changed the Congress and permitted the unrestrained expansion of the powers, reach, and oppressive abilities of the Federal Government. Under this amendment the States no longer appointed their own Senators in any manner they saw fit, be it appointed by the Governor, appointed by the Governor and ratified by some branch of the State Legislature, appointed directly by the State Legislature or even directly elected by the people which any State could have enacted as their method had they so chosen. This was a direct assault on the rights of the States and took place under a wave of humanist excitement where it was believed that the people, if allowed to voice their combined will, would reach a more reasoned and duly proper decision than any that could be reached by the corrupt and despicable State Governances. The members of the Federal Government even back then looked upon the State Governments, from which many of them had originally served, with contempt and disdain. They saw them as incapable of reasoned thought or honest debate. Looking at the Congress of today one might come to the conclusion that a monarchy might be preferable, but surely I jest. It is likely certain that had the Senate remained as intended a product of the individual State Governments deciding their selection process that the vast majority of States would have decided to allow for the direct election of their Senators in the Federal Government anyways, so there is probably little difference today that if the Amendment XVII were never passed or ratified. One note on history, both the Amendment XVII and the Amendment XVI, which enacted the income tax, have both had claims made that they were not truly ratified by the necessary States within the time limited by the Constitution and are therefore not enforceable. Thus far nobody has won a court case challenging either Amendment. Given my personal choice, I would prefer ridding the United States of the Amendment XVII as returning a greater amount of limiting force by the individual States would do more to limit and turn back the growth of the Federal Government than anything else I have ever heard promoted. The one item that would cease to exist immediately would be the imposition of unfunded mandates on the individual States by Federal legislation as that has become a nasty and not all that uncommon way that the Federal Government passes legislation while forcing the States to finance the implementation and continue maintenance of the legislation and not burdening the Federal budget with such costs. Imagine a Federal Government which was forced to pay for every consequence of their legislative agendas. They would soon go on a legislative diet which the press would label gridlock and the Representatives and Senators would label sticker shock from seeing the financial consequences of all of their actions and being unable to pass the costs off on the States. That was an imagine that Mr. John Lennon missed in his song, but being British I guess he should be forgiven.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 10, 2012

Thoughts on the Upcoming American Choice

President Barrack Obama stated during his acceptance speech that, “It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.” He could not have said it any more plainly and could not have nailed the truth about this election any more honestly. Actually, the one thing that must be said about President Obama is that he often says exactly what he is planning to do in broad and sweeping terms fashioned to make them appear so tempting and attractive mainly due to the fact that he allows space for each person to fill in the gaps and adjust his thoughts so they mesh perfectly with your thoughts. That is what was so appealing of his first campaign slogan of “Hope and Change.” Barack H. Obama never went into any details of exactly what it was he desired to change or where his hopes would take the Americans and their country, the United States. Some claim that now, after almost four years, we have a much clearer definitions for “Hope and Change” than during the 2008 campaign. This has made the President more attractive to one group and less so to another. The two factions of the American populace have been equated with one side being mostly made up of unions and those who favor a socialist view relying heavily on government to address any social problems and the other has been related to the Tea Party and made up of strict interpretation of the Constitution, smaller government and relying on individuals to address any social problems.  The election will define which group is the larger of the two.

The group more likely to support President Obama being reelected to a second term is the ones who believe that reliance on government is the best way to solve the needs of the society and the people. Like President Obama, these people believe that everybody having a fair and equal chance to make it in today’s world must be guaranteed by government intervention such that in the end there is an equaling force making the society equitable. They have a belief that for the most part the economy is like a big pie and if one person takes a double helping of pie then two other people will only get half a slice and that government needs to assure that everybody gets a fair and more even piece of the economic pie. They believe that greed will drive businesses to do whatever it takes to make more profit with absolutely no regard for who gets hurt, crushed even, or what affect they place upon the environment. That is why they are in favor of more and more regulations in order to guide and steer those who would otherwise wreck the planet in the name of profit take the correct attitude and minimize any adverse effects on the planet. There is a fear that if not for the government watching over businesses carefully that he leaders in industry would act with little regard for the health of the workers and that it takes government to assure that even the lowest person in the workplace receives sufficient wages to meet the basic needs of life. These people look to Europe and envy their healthcare systems and support Obama Care and would like to take it one step further and have the government take complete control over the healthcare industry. They will claim that only through government takeover can we assure that every single individual receives top notch healthcare and nobody goes without. They will sight the huge numbers of citizens who do not have health insurance because they have recently changed jobs and will likely receive coverage if they choose within a year or them who cannot afford to purchase health insurance. This group believes that without government society would cease to operate with any degree of fairness or equality and the people would end up divided into two groups, those few who have almost all the wealth and comfort in life or the majority who would be destitute and near starvation with no healthcare or other necessities of life. For the reason of making life fair and all people equal, they call upon government to smooth out life and remove any roadblocks and other difficulties which people would likely fail at if left to face them unaided.

The Tea Party oriented group, which includes Constitutionalists, Capitalists, Religious Conservatives, and others who likely had not supported President Obama in 2008 and had read things they disapproved of into the campaign of “Hope and Change.” These are the people who believe that government should do only that which are required to allow people to pursue their own paths and be as little felt in an individual’s life. They believe that government exists simply to give everybody the same starting point, the same opportunity to succeed and not assure that everybody succeeds. They feel that by trying to assure that everyone succeeds that government, by necessity, must take from those who are the most successful and give to those who failed and that by assuming such a role government is rewarding failure and punishing success. The capitalists within these groups feel that the economy is not simply one big pie which everybody gets a share of; they believe that those who produce continue to make more and more pies therefore allowing for everybody to receive more because the amount of pie is constantly being increased and is not a set amount. The Constitutionalists are the ones who make heroes out of the Founding Fathers equating them with inspired brilliance unequaled through all of political history. They will tend to quote them, each one crediting their own favorite, as having said in some form that, “The government that governs best governs least.” One point that many in this camp would support is that, as President Reagan said, “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The Constitutionalists believe that the present day government has gone completely wild and take actions and jurisdiction over countless things which were forbidden by the Constitutional limitations. These are strong supporters of the entire Bill of Rights emphasizing often Amendments II,IV,V,IX and X and call for the repeal of Amendments XVI and XVII getting rid of the Income Tax and the direct election of the Senate returning control of the Senate to the State Legislators or whatever method each State might choose for themselves.

The idea of competition as a constructive force is something which both Capitalists and Constitutionalists will portray as a constructive driving force behind their philosophies. This is fairly obvious for the Capitalists as Capitalism is dependent upon competition as a limit on prices as when two or more businesses have to compete for customers, the one vital point very often is price such that whichever one can sell the product or provide service for the lower price with all else being basically equal, the lower price competitor will sell the most product or provide the majority of the services. The Constitutionalists will point out that by allowing the individual States to control the largest possible amount of governance over the Federal Government taking the lead, and then the fifty different States will act as fifty experiments in how to meet the needs and requirements of their citizens. In time a few States will be found to have the best ideas and the others will adopt the most appropriate and efficient of these methods. And as the other States adopt the technique proven by others will also make some modifications and some of these will be seen as an improvement which can then be made available even to the State originating the most efficient base approach.  The one thing that all of these people in this camp will agree is that the federal government has grown into an unmanageable behemoth which needs desperately to be put on a diet and trimmed down to size by reducing its size, power, scope, and influence even to include doing away with some of the Federal Government’s departments. As to how much or how far to restrict and trim the Federal Government is a matter where there may be numerous differing opinions and is where many are able to point to give evidence of hypocrisy. What they find is each group want the Federal Government to hold on to particular items which they support and these differences are the points of contention which often break the conservative groups apart and makes having an universal platform near impossible. One example to make the point is those who believe in the “Right to Life”. Where the entire group likely can find common ground against abortion and possibly even work something out considering birth control, they will break into two separate camps when addressing capital punishment. A large percentage of the Right to Life people support the death penalty as they are also “Law and Order” supporters while another large percentage extend the right to life to include being against the death penalty. There is no way to bridge this divide and any candidate running for office when addressing this issue is in a no win situation, whichever side they choose a large portion of their Right to Life supporters will disagree.

Which side is more aligned with what it means to be American of these two very different and separate groups? Well, that will completely depend on this upcoming election and everything else that follows. Everyone who is calling this a critical election which will determine much of the future of the United States are partially correct. This election will very likely set a course of the United States for the next decade or two. What is frightening is that an argument can be made that with the choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, whoever wins the election may not take the country in as diametrically different direction as we are being led to believe. One point which may place a spotlight on the exact reasons why this is likely true concerns Obama Care, also known as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has been given as the perfect example of the difference between the two parties in this election. It is not necessary to point out where President Obama stands on this program, it is his signature legislation despite the fact that he did little to write it and likely did not even make any huge contributions beyond pushing it through Congress by any means required. But where does Mitt Romney stand on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? All one needs to do is read the message on the front of the podium at which he stood when making the promise to address The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act first thing should he be elected to the Presidency. The podium signaled Mitt Romney’s real intentions where it said Repeal and Replace Obama Care. When considering this position one is tempted to ask the same question as should have been asked of Obama concerning Hope and Change. What exactly do you mean by Replace Mr. Romney? Will anybody ask this before they vote or will we once again elect somebody because we foolishly hope he means the same thing we do when he says Repeal and Replace?

Beyond the Cusp

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