The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Is this the stupidest editorial running?

A newspaper in San Antonio, Texas, the Express-News, just ran an editorial stating:

House Speaker John Boehner is reportedly preparing legislation allowing the House to sue the president over his use of executive actions.

The president, his supporters say, has used these only because Congress has failed to act on, well, just about anything of substance. There is some evidence that the real name of the game is denying the president any victory. Pure political brinkmanship, in other words.

Separation of powers is a weighty topic that should be considered when events warrant — on NSA spying, for instance, or going to war without explicit congressional approval. We have doubts that the president's executive actions in question rise to that level.

Boehner is likely pursuing this legislation with some confidence, given the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last week that slapped the president down for use of recess appointments.

Presidents from both parties have done recess appointments. Legislators have tried to prevent these by conducting pro-forma sessions in which essentially no business is conducted.

A unanimous high court said these pro-forma sessions can't be considered recesses and that the president acted unconstitutionally. It ignored the abuse of power the pro-forma sessions represent.

Abuse of power? Apparently the Express-News believes that a president should have untrammelled right to do anything he wants, and that it is an abuse of power for the Senate to use its Constitutional power to take an equal part in the appointments process; the constitutional phrase is “advice and consent.”

What should tie all these issues together for the public is whether the president, in the face of congressional inaction, has the authority to act on his own on various issues. On nominations, on immigration and on EPA regulations, for instance.

But there's a cure that Boehner avoids. Congress could govern.

Unilaterally? The Express-News does not seem to understand that the House of Representatives and Senate are controlled by opposite parties, that anything the House passes will be turned down by a Democratic Senate, and that even if the GOP retakes the Senate in this November's elections, President Obama still has a veto power.

This lawsuit would attempt in the courts what the parties should settle at the ballot box — by winning the Senate and the White House, for instance — or by engaging in the give-and-take that real governing demands.

Harry Reid has shown that he is unwilling to “engag[e] in the give-and-take that real governing demands.” The House has passed legislation to mitigate the disaster that is Obamacare. Sen. Reid will not let it come up for a vote where it could be amended to produce some sort of compromise.

There are constitutional limits to both executive and legislative authority. But at its core, the argument for the public is really whether separation of powers means that one branch gets to infect another with its purposeful, partisan inaction.

The question prompts another: Where does the line start to sue Congress for its refusal to govern?

It is not that Congress refuses to govern. It is that anything one house of Congress might pass will be killed by the other. And it is also that we have a President who cannot see the error of his ways, and therefore would veto any legislation that might actually improve things.

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