Gun's don't kill people. People with guns kill people.


"No body could have done a better job than Obama, with the economy he was handed —including me!" —Bill Clinton—

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Congress: The Broken Branch of Government

Why doesn't somebody do something about the partisanship gridlock in Congress?

Today, I hit on a nugget I'd like to share with you. It comes from the Brookings Institute, which studies a broad scope of our American government.

It referred to the current Congress as, "The Broken Branch". They explained that while the majority of the American people hold Congress in low esteem and regard them as, "the do nothing branch of government", in reality they were able to pass an impressive amount of bills, but, were hamstrung by procedural issues on the big issue of the Iraq war.

In part the Brookings Institute report stated:
"Based on our research, the 110th Congress does deserve some praise. In 2007, the level of energy and activity on Capitol Hill picked up markedly. This is not surprising — when the Newt Gingrich Congress, took over in 1995, the pace of legislative life sped up, too.

However, In terms of both the number and significance of new public laws, last year’s Democratic majority, significantly, outperformed that Republican Congress. For example, only one item described in the Republican Contract With America was signed into law at the end of 1995, while most of the proposals the new Democrats announced as their agenda were enacted". http://www.brookings.edu/opinions 2008 0119_uscongress_mann.aspx

So, What makes most Americans perceive the current Congress is a do nothing body.

According to the Brookings Institute, the minority party has used a number of techniques and procedures to block major pieces of legislation they find repugnant to their political agendas.

The American people had sent the Democrats there to end the Iraq War. Right? But, the Republicans didn't want them to end it. Ergo, the Republicans found procedural technicalities to slow down or stop legislation.

The Brookings Institute report went on to say:
"The rules and procedures of the Senate are a key to its unique role as the world's greatest deliberative body; and even those who were frustrated (the democrats) by them (rules and procedures) and by their application, especially when an intense minority (the republicans) thwarted the will of the majority, they (the democrats) were respectful of their (rules and procedures) centrality to the Senate itself". http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2006/0627governance_mann.aspx

So, how is it possible for the Minority to block the will of the Majority?

There are three main procedural techniques the Republicans used.

1. Cloture votes: Cloture rules require 60 members to agree to take a vote to bring a bill to the floor. When you have a majority as slim as the democrats have, reaching that magic number is nearly impossible.

If they get 60 votes to bring it to the floor for discussion they face a Filibuster.

2. Filibuster: is the use of tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action especially in a legislative assembly. In the case of Congress it takes the form of endless discussion on the issue without ever reaching a negotiated agreement as to what will or will not be included in the bill. The rules say once a member holds the floor he can talk for as long as he wants. There is no time limit. And that he can pass the filibuster on to others who also want to stall a bill. Much like a tag team in wrestling.

If a law gets by these two hurdles it goes to the president for his signature. If he can't veto it outright he will add a Signing Statement.

3. A Signing Statement: is and and addendum added to a bill, by the President, that basically says, I won't veto this, but I will not abide by it either and reserve the right to violate it at my discretion. That's why the American government still uses torture such as "water-boarding" even after Bush signed the McCain Bill that said the America government will absolutely not torture anyone, under any circumstances.

This excruciating process of of democracy leaves most of us angry and frustrated, but, lets not forget that it is the minority party that is at the root of this deliberate tactic to thwart the will of the majority.

There are volumes written about the governments of countries that have been ruled by a small groups of power hungry men with their own agenda, that rule by fear, use of torture, spying and secrecy, and that invaded other countries without just cause. Remember the USSR?

I never thought I'd live to see the day those things would apply to my beloved America.

George and his crew have given an undeserved power to our enemies by their exaggerated over-reaction. And decided incompetence.

This country has always been at its best when it faced the future unafraid and its government open to honest inspection of its inner workings, without secrecy, that only protects the power hungry, the incompetent and the corrupt.

You have the power to end the war. You have the power to end the disgrace of torture. You have the power change the ill-conceived policies that have brought shame to this country. You have the power to end the secret prisons, illegal wire-tapping, and paranoid fear-mongering. You have the power to vote. God bless you and God bless this country I love.

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