December 25, 2011

What Is The Proper Measure Of A Congress?

Over at NewsBusters, there is a post on comments by CBS's Nancy Cordes:

During a roundtable discussion on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, after asserting that in past years divided government had "produced some really remarkable pieces of legislation," correspondent Nancy Cordes blamed the presence of Tea Party Republicans for less congressional success in enacting legislation this year. (Video below)

Anchor Bob Schieffer raised the difficulty Congress has had in 2011 in making accomplishments, prompting Cordes to observe:

I think what we learned this year is that divided government, which in the past has produced some really remarkable pieces of legislation, doesn't produce the same kind of results when you have two parties that are so far apart the way that these two are right now.

After noting that, in the past, Congress had been able to procrastinate before advancing critical legislation, she continued:

It's worked in the past, but it doesn't work anymore because you have a new crop of Tea Party House Republicans who have no interest in political expediency. That's not what they ran on. They're not just going to get along. When they don't like a piece of legislation, they don't mind if it makes them look bad in the short-term. They're going to stand on the ground.

Implicit in these comments is the notion that it is somehow the duty of the Legislative Branch to pass more and more far-reaching legislation.

But is it?

Or is it instead the proper role of Congress to pass only that legislation that is truly both necessary AND proper to carrying out the delegated powers found in the Constitution?

If one takes the latter view, the proper measure of a Congress is not how many "remarkable pieces of legislation" get passed, but rather how intact the liberties of the American people after that Congress has run its course.

By that measure, the alleged blocking of legislation by uncompromising Tea Party Republicans in the House is a good thing, and one that has left Americans more free than they would have been had they been willing to "compromise".

But this also overlooks the other reality of the current Congress -- the same Republicans in the House who have allegedly blocked "remarkable legislation" have themselves passed some twenty pieces of remarkable legislation that would fundamentally alter how programs are run, reform budgets and improve our tax system. Senate majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to call many of these pieces of legislation to the floor, and has refused to allow other pieces of legislation to be amended to include elements of the House legislation. So tell me -- who is uncompromising?

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