April 7, 2020

Dear Congress

By Stephen Tuttle | Jan. 20, 2018


Dear Congress: 

Around 550 million years ago, the right combination of atmospheric oxygen and changes in the makeup of the oceans allowed critters to convert minerals into bone. About 7 million years ago, the first humanoid type used those bones to stand upright. 

You, Congress, have managed to reverse hundreds of millions of years of spinal development in just one year. The bones you were born with and are supposed to have in your back have disappeared.  

Your inability or unwillingness to stand upright in the face of ongoing presidential outrages is sad enough. But your complete abdication of your responsibilities as legislators is deeply troubling.

The legislative spine that has left you is right there for you to see, in black and white, in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, it's the very first thing in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 1. Follow along: “All legislative Powers herein granted will be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” 

Did you notice the phrase “All legislative powers?” The first three words of the Constitution? The power to legislate is solely yours. You don't need the approval of the president, the lobbyists, the media, or anybody else.

Your latest offense, in which you once again devolved from actual legislators into slithering supplicants, involves immigration reform.

A bipartisan group of your senators came up with a reform package and took it to the president, who liked it, didn't like it, said he'd support whatever you wanted, and then really didn't like it and uttered some crude unpleasantries. And your senators went scurrying off.

Assuming the proposal really had bipartisan support, it seems likely, if not probable, such legislation could pass the Senate. (Your House is likely a different matter, but this is starting in the Senate.) Oh, but the mighty president would veto it because he doesn't like it.  

Remember the bipartisan part of this? You need only 67 votes in the Senate to override a veto. And for sure you start with 49 Democrat votes because they'll vote, lockstep, in opposition to all things Trump. So you need only 18 Republican votes and, after all, it had bipartisan support. 

It should be noted here the immigration reform efforts just denounced by the president included an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA). This is the program that allowed those who were brought here illegally as children, and have behaved themselves since, to eventually gain citizenship. There are about 690,000 such immigrants currently enrolled in the DACA program who would face deportation if it isn't renewed.

It does seem unusually cruel to deport people, brought here involuntarily as children, to countries they've never known. But that might happen because you aren't doing the job the Constitution specifically tells you to do. 

Yes, we all understand the president is the titular leader of his party, and other Republicans are trying to follow his agenda when they can figure out what it is. But when he leads you into dark corners, it is your job, your right, and your obligation to bring us back out into the light.

You can set your own agenda — preferably one that puts the country ahead of any party and doesn't shut down the government — and implement it. If you believe immigration reform works better by extending DACA and omitting billions for a wall, then pass the bills, override the veto, and move along.

Seriously, you are allowed to do that. It's right there in the Constitution.

These are difficult times. A significant majority of the country doesn't trust the leadership of our president or approve of the job he's doing. We're worried about possible war, lack of direction here at home, and a loss of prestige abroad.

Frankly, your popularity is even worse than the president's, at least in part because you aren't doing your job, and you haven't been for some time. You work for us, and we sort of like our employees to do the jobs for which they were hired. You appear to be working for someone else, or something else, or not working at all. We're not getting much in return for what we pay you. 

You swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution when you took office, an oath that says nothing about supporting any individual or party. If you have a different agenda, perhaps you should seek employment opportunities elsewhere.  

There are real challenges out there, unimpressed with party ideology or individual whims. It will take actual effort and rational legislation to meet them. Just stiffen that cartilage that used to be backbone, stand up and do the job our Constitution instructs you to do. 

Your friend, Steve





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