“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,”
Article I – Section 5
United States Constitution
For textualists, the embarrassing and potentially destructive circuses presently on display in the House of Representatives and Senate may be perfectly acceptable as the Constitution permits each chamber to establish its own rules. Its drafters believed the House and Senate would be deliberative, democratic bodies where each representative or senator would have an equal voice and vote in their respective chamber’s proceedings.
While many of their adopted rules improved organizational and administrative efficiencies, others were politically motivated and, whether intentional or not, have created an undemocratic legislative environment fostering partisan tribalism and legislative gridlock.
Why should any single member of Congress, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, committee chairperson, or individual senator have unilateral power to “kill” proposed legislation or “freeze” presidential nominations? Its chilling effect silences legitimate political opposition and disenfranchises other members and sitting presidents who should have the right for their bills and nominations to be openly debated and voted on.
Alabama Senator Tuberville is the most recent poster child for this undemocratic recklessness, holding up scores of critical military nominations in protest of a Pentagon-issued reproductive rights policy for its service members simply because he personally disapproves of the policy.
Under its rules, no legislation can be acted on or passed without a Speaker who has been approved by the full House. Compounding such insanity is a political environment where compromising with those holding different opinions, proposing alternative solutions, disagreeing with their party’s orthodoxy, or working with members of the other party has become unforgivable political heresies.
America is faced with many critically important domestic and potentially dangerous international crises requiring urgent attention. Yet Congress is either unable or unwilling to make reasonable compromises to solve the challenges and protect our nation.
- Passage of a long-term budget to avoid recurring threats of shutdowns.
- Bringing the national debt under control and preventing potential financial defaults.
- Providing military and humanitarian aid to support:
- Israel to ensure it can respond to military threats from Hamas and Hezbollah while discouraging Iran from inflaming the situation and preventing any humanitarian disaster for the Palestinian people.
- Ukrainian, whose bloody sacrifices have become the only obstacle preventing Russia from expanding its domination over greater parts of Europe and possibly drawing NATO and the United States into a larger and more dangerous conflict.
- Taiwan, which continues to face threats of a possible invasion from China.
- Finding solutions to the nation’s immigration crisis while protecting the status of law-abiding DACA immigrants, the vast majority who have never known any country but America.
- Stemming the flow of fentanyl, other illicit drugs, and illegal weapons into the country.
- Tackling the deepfake and other threats posed by Artificial Intelligence.
- Ensuring the 2024 elections will remain secure while protecting the right and ability of every qualified voter to be able to conveniently cast a ballot.
This Congressional gridlock is unacceptable but does have a simple solution.
Voters need to reject candidates whose campaigns are built around spitefulness and distrust of people who disagree with them, remembering they are also Americans and not an “enemy.” Mantras of “My way or the highway!” need to be shunned in favor of seeking pathways to work and partner with those in our pluralistic society holding different views.
Without certain far-reaching and for African slaves, native American peoples, and even women tragic, compromises made during the Convention of 1787, our Constitution and subsequently drafted Bill of Rights would never have been ratified, and our American Republic would never have come into existence. Fortunately, written into that Constitution were mechanisms for ultimately reversing its horrific evils.
Our elected representatives must put personal agendas and party orthodoxies aside and embrace compromise as it is a vital key for ensuring America’s international and domestic security, the preservation of our liberties, and the future of our fragile Republic.
Dick Newbert, the editor of thelegacyof1776.com has been a widely-published commentator for more than three decades and has been the creator sponsored of this civics scholarship essay contests for Bucks County (PA) high school seniors focused on an understanding of the Constitution and American Civics. He is a graduate of Tufts University, a retired Naval Reserve Officer, Vietnam veteran and retired entrepreneur.
He has been active in many business organizations, local community boards, the American Red, recreational and interscholastic and other youth programs and is a past Rotary Club president. He has a passion for photography and, together with his wife, has traveled in their motorhome extensively throughout North America … having visited our federal and all fifty state capitols, each of the of the nation’s presidential libraries/museums and more than forty of the nation’s national parks. He lives with his wife in Langhorne, PA.