Thursday, February 28, 2013

'We Could Carve A Better Senate Out of a Bunch of Ripened Old Bananas!'

A Better Man
Carved out of a Banana
This wonderfully descriptive dig is derived from President Theodore Roosevelt who pretty much used the First Amendment freedom of speech whenever he wanted.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, whom Roosevelt had gleefully appointed to the Supreme Court 18 months previous, ruled against one of Roosevelt's signature anti-trust pieces of legislation, of which he had many.

Roosevelt erupted with his famous statement: 'I could carve a better judge out of a banana!' He used other versions to describe various political opponents who denied or frustrated him in any way. One was excoriated thusly: 'I could carve a better backbone out of a banana!'

Given today's 'Doomsday Scenario' of 'The Big, Bad Sequester' happening tomorrow, we think it is important to revisit the US Constitution and try to divine what the Founders were thinking when they formed our Republic 226 years ago.

Wouldn't they be proud of the way this President, this Senate and this Congress have worked together to keep this Republic together for the next 226 years in which our children, grandchildren and future offspring could enjoy, live and prosper?

Sadly, we think the Founders would say of today's US Senate: 'We could carve a better Senate out of a bunch of ripened old bananas!'

What is the 'missing link' in this whole process? Why has it gotten this bad?

Something has been troubling us ever since the Republicans took back control of the House in 2010 as a direct consequence of the overreach of President Obama and the Democrats who controlled both the House and Senate in his first 2 years as President. It always happens when one side or the other has unfettered power and they lord it over the other side like a sledgehammer.

Seemingly, they are oblivious to the fact that one day, perhaps soon, they will not have unfettered power to do as they please. There might be a split government or they may be in the minority once again where they all of a sudden have to respect the other side again. It happens time and time and time again in American politics.

For that, we can thank the Founders for their wonderfully created system where the rights of the minority party are protected and preserved and the checks and balances works against tyrannical control by either party or single person.

What has really troubled us is the abject abrogation of duty, leadership and responsibility by the US Senate, once known as 'The World's Greatest Deliberative Body' when such oratorical giants as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay regularly held court.

Today, the US Senate should be known as simply 'The World's Greatest Non-Deliberative, Dilatory and Responsibility-Shirking Body The World Has Ever Known!'

Seriously. What do they do up there every single day we are paying them to be up there? We would be getting the same amount of work done and final production in terms of solving things like the budget sequester crisis if the 100 US Senators were on a junket for an extended period of time.

For anyone who has worked in the US Senate for even 1 minute, the lack of deliberative, thoughtful, coherent work under Majority Leader Harry Reid is an embarrassment to us as a nation.  We have heard from various Senate staffers, observers and operatives that the US Senate 'just doesn't work anymore'.

Here's the saddest part.  Senator Reid seems to have forgotten his civics lessons from the 6th grade growing up in Searchlight, Nevada. Assuming he read them in the first place.

There is absolutely no role for any US President to be involved with the annual federal budgeting process.  Not a single solitary one. This is a constitutional role solely reserved for the US Congress made up of duly-elected people who are elected from 435 congressional districts and 2 people from each of the 50 states. All revenue bills will originate in the US House says the Constitution, not the White House or even the Senate.

Those are the rules of the game, whether you like it or not. To do otherwise would be like playing golf without reading the Rules of Golf beforehand.

The Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 made it crystal clear that the ONLY thing a President could or should do in the annual appropriations process is veto any bill he/she thinks is wasteful or overspends in any way. That is in the Constitution as well in case anyone has forgotten that little fact as well.

The House is supposed to pass a budget each year, hopefully before April or May, which the Republicans under Speaker John Boehner have done for the past 2 years now and will do so again in 2013.

The US Senate is then 'supposed' to pass a budget which Senator Harry Reid has either conveniently 'forgotten' to do or just plain has wanted to be obstinate and not do for the past 1400 days.

That is over 3.83 years and counting, people. That is about 27 years in dog-years if you want to stretch it out even more.

We know there are younger, more responsible and thoughtful Democratic Senators such as Senator Mark Warner of Virginia who want to be fiscally-responsible and pass annual budgets.

Senator Reid is not allowing them to do it.

Once both the House and the Senate pass their versions of annual budgets for the US government, they go to conference and reconcile their differences. Both houses then pass the compromise budget before sending spending instructions to each of the appropriations committees (13 in the House) which tells them how much money they can spend in that specific fiscal year.

Have you noticed that nothing in this discussion so far has included the President at all?

That is because the budgets passed by Congress are 'concurrent resolutions' that are not officially 'law' as any 'Public Law #1234' would be. The President never has to sign any budget passed by both the House and Senate and reconciled in a compromise committee. Nor can he veto a budget resolution.

These are powers solely reserved to the US Congress as composed of 435 Representatives and 100 Senators.

So here's our question of the day:

'Why in the world should Speaker John Boehner and the House GOP ever discuss budget issues with anyone other than Majority Leader Reid and the Senate Democrats?'

Leave President Obama and every other US President to come out of the budget debate entirely. 'It is none of his business' one could say with an air of constitutional finality about it all.

The onus of this colossal failure to govern should fall squarely at the feet of Majority Leader Harry Reid where it rightfully belongs. He will not be remembered by future historians as a Senate Leader on the order of a Henry Clay or even an LBJ.  We feel reasonably certain in making that somewhat bold prediction.

President Teddy Roosevelt was pretty ruthless when he said he could carve better men and backbones out of bananas.

He didn't say anything about carving better brains out of bananas.  But he could have. We are seeing it played out live today in 'The Great Sequester of 2013'.

This might be one for the Guinness Book of World Records. For stupidity and dereliction of duty. At the same time.

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