- Politics and Social Issues
Will We Hear This in the State of the Union Speech (2011)
A Representatives Role (Represent the People or the Party?)
The underlying frustration that caused such drastic results in the 2010 elections was that the people no longer feel like they are being represented by their representatives. The people had begun to feel that the elected view their position as an opportunity to rule, rather than an opportunity to act as a duly appointed representative. This left people with the impression that representatives respond to the funding of lobbyists and to the support of their party, since they are the major contributors to getting elected, and that elections are merely popularity contests. I would remind our representatives even now that there is nothing in the word ‘representative’ that says ‘tell us how to live, tell us how we want to spend our tax money, tell us what to do’. In fact, the word itself is supposed to indicate that ‘representatives’ act on the behalf of the voice of the person, group, or organization they represent. The people’s frustration with their representatives resulted in the new Congress we see before us today.
Representatives of the prior Congress left the people with the impression that they only responded to the voice of lobbyists, or the voice of their party. This resulted in bills being passed that the people simply did not want passed. The people exercised their role in government in the last election to vote out many who had listened to the voice of their party, instead of listening to the voice of the people. The partisan influence also extended into the Senate, where Senators voted along party lines, many apparently in opposition to the desires of their state. The result is that a number of states have filed lawsuits challenging the Constitutionality of the law, resulting in additional tax-burden at both the state and federal level. This could have been avoided if Representatives had listened to the voice of their constituents and Senators had listened to the legislatures of their states. This could have been avoided if we all had not gotten caught up in the trap of voting lock-step with our parties.
The people still seek to have their voice heard by their representatives. They have been promised a system of transparency, participation, and collaboration. While we have made improvements, this is not yet complete. With the last election, some of us are painfully aware that more needs to be done. The people have indicated by vote, that no matter what party, they seek to be heard by their representatives.
A Representatives Role (The Constitution)
It has been noted that many bills contain clauses indicating that the whole bill will not be deemed to be unconstitutional if specific parts of the bill are determined to be unconstitutional. Our representatives take an oath to uphold the Constitution. All employees of the federal government take that same oath. Clearly representatives have had reservations about the contents of some bills. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution lists the authorities granted to Congress. It is not a long list. The current Congress, the 112th Congress, has already adopted house rules requiring that all acts of the House will identify the specific clause of the Constitution that gives them the authority to bring the act before Congress.
In the past, the use of earmarks and riders has become a regular practice. To the people, this has the appearance of deals made to secure votes of Representatives or Senators. The people are also wary of a legislative process that secures votes from a representative for legislation by exempting their constituents from the law being voted for. In the future Congress may want to consider keeping earmarks and riders separate from higher priority business of Congress, and that they be discussed separately in support of providing for the general welfare of the states and promoting the general welfare of our citizens.
Will We Hear this in the State of the Union speech?
Or Will We Hear This?
“The last Congress offered the appearance of representatives who don't represent the people, the appearance that partisanship rules, and the appearance that the constitution only matters if someone cares. The last Congress left people with the perception that government is of the commoner constituency, by the elected elite, for the benefit of the dollar flowing from the commoner to the elite.” (The whattayyagonnadoaboutit syndrome)
“Clearly, the people are seeking change, and are hoping that change will be reflected throughout the entire duration of the 112th Congress. The people did their part to make sure their voice is heard. We see that in the many new faces in Congress. This Congress began with rules that require traceability to the Constitution for all business. Do not let yourselves believe that it is about just one issue. Instead, it is about Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive reaffirming the roles defined in our Constitution. It is also about reaffirming and improving the people’s ability to participate in government. It is about reaffirming the principle offered to us by Abraham Lincoln so long ago, that ours is a ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people.’
“I will support legislation that requires representatives to interactively reach out to, solicit, and hear the voice of their constituency. It is fundamental to our government process that representatives represent the people, that representation is not along partisan lines, and that representation is in accordance with the constitutional powers granted to the House of Representatives (Congress?).”
“It is also fundamental to our government process that Senators represent their States, and that their representation is not along partisan lines. I propose that Congress reconsider the 17thamendment to our Constitution so that we restore representation of, and allegiance to the States by our Senators, and not to the parties. Their role is to help prevent burdens from being imposed on the individual States by the federal government. In this role they can prevent legislation from passing that is subsequently challenged in court by states who's Senators voted for the legislation.”
"I will veto legislation that is presented to me for signature that has 1) been passed on the basis of a vote clearly along party lines, 2) contains riders or earmarks that convey the appearance of deals in place to secure votes from representatives, 3) contains within it clauses indicating lack of confidence in the constitutionality of the law being passed.”
We all seek change. It is my belief that our current frustration with politics and government is not just about any one issue, but is rather about how we exercise our government process. This can be changed. Government will be strengthened when people feel encouraged to participate in the government process, and do not feel that attempts to communicate with their representative are hopeless.