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Posted: Tue Nov 07, 2006 4:29 pm Post subject: Vote for a split government today
I just wanted to encourage those of you who read this post to vote for a split government tomorrow. That means that you should vote to take a branch of the government out of the hands of the GOP. It looks like at least the House will switch from Republican to a Democratic numerical majority. I think that, at the most, the Seante will be evenly split, with the possibility of the New England Republicans keeping their independent streak, voting with the party on procedural votes and possibly with the opposition on votes of substance.
Our Constitution attempts to prevent the tyranny of government over-reach with the separation of powers and checks and balances. With the Republican Party in control of both elected branches of government, there has been a dereliction of Congressional duty. While the burden of oversight is implied and not specifically spelled out, the Supreme Court legitimized Congressional oversight of the Executive in its 1927 decision McGrain v. Daugherty. (Additionally, see Barenblatt v. United States, although this case was not dealing with Congressional oversight of another branch it did reiterate that if Congressional investigations were to "aid the legislative process" and protect important government interests, then the investigation was legit. Refference U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 and Article II, Sections 2 and 4.)
So what might there be to be overseen? At the top of my list is the execution of the use of Presidential signing statements as de facto line-item vetos. The signing statement is used by the president to make official record rhetoric or reservations of constitutionality regarding legislation that was being signed into law. President Bush uses them in a way that many consider illegal. (See Clinton v. City of New York.) The most glaring example of this is the signing statement to the McCain torture amendmant:
The Executive Branch shall construe [the torture ban] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary Executive Branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power.
EXCUSE ME??? If you'll bare with me for a moment, let us quote our Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, Line 11:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water
And Article 1, Section 8, Line 14:
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces
Let us compare that with Article 3, Section 2:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States
This is all that Article 3 says about the athority of the President over the armed forces. Simply put, the Office of the President does not have the legitimate power to invalidate the laws and regulations of the Armed Forces of the United States.
But now you're saying that I've discussed torture ad nauseum but haven't touched the line-item veto since I mentioned it above. The line-item veto can be a useful tool of the executive to cut port out of budgets. A number of states have them and limit their use to appropriations bills. The US Constitution does not allow for this. The President can either sign a bill in its entirety or veto a bill in its entirety. The Republican Congress gave President Clinton the Line-Veto Act of 1996, which was found by a margin of 6-3 to violate the Presentment Clause of the US Constitution. That case was the aforementioned Clinton v. City of New York.
Other issues that, I think and many more conservatives concur, the Bush Adminstration needs to be challenged on include the growth of non-defense spending--second largest since LBJ; the assault on federalism; the terrorist survelance program and the Adminstration's unwillingness to go to Congress to legitimize it; the Justice Department's obsession with pornography and obsenity cases--why 87% of terror cases go unprosecuted but there has been a significant jump in pornography cases. (Is catching jihadists not enough?) These are just a few areas where oversight is needed, God only knows that there are more.
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