Feisty GOP' s Frivolous House Rules

Feisty GOP' s Frivolous House Rules

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The new Republican-led House is reading the Constitution of the United States as its first order of business. That’s just dandy, as is a rule from Republican leaders requiring all bills filed in the House to cite a “specific constitutional authority.”

Imagine the day a bill emerges that refers to the “excluding Indians not taxed, and three fifths of all other Persons” clause as its basis.

In addition to the constitutional bills requirement, the GOP House leadership has declared fast-track resolutions commending everyone and anyone for anything, off limits. This, strangely, is a move designed to demonstrate how serious they are about governing the nation.

You know the type: “Whereas the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the greatest sports franchises in history, the House commends and congratulates the Los Angeles Lakers on winning the 2010 National Basketball Championship.”

Or, “Congratulating California’s Chula Vista Park View Little League team for winning the 2009 Little League World Series Championship.”

Nope, no more of those bills. But, in a blow for civic pride everywhere, they did agree to keep the power to name post offices nationwide. Without the throw-away commemoratives available, maybe the NBA championship Lakers can have its own post office instead?

The point is that commemorative, “frivolous” resolutions are not a problem. And neither is lack of adherence to the Constitution – a document that by the process of amendment has become broad, nearly all-encompassing, and a living document, which governs a country that has gone from parchment to iPads.

The Constitution grants the power to “lay and collect Taxes,” to “provide for the general welfare,”(Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security) to establish a “uniform rule of Naturalization,” to “regulate commerce” among states (the health insurance industry), and, you got to love this one, for its broad mandate “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper.”

Looks like almost any bill would qualify, and should Congress pass an unconstitutional law, well, that’s what the Supreme Court is for.

The bottom line is: Wasting time in Congress will not be solved by imposing a constitutional litmus test or ending commemoratives. It will be solved when members of both parties stop playing political one-upmanship and decide to tackle the big issues of the day: the budget and deficit, Medicare, Social Security, and the global wars the United States continues to fight. 

The recently-ended lame-duck session was something of a model on how to get things done, particularly passing the START treaty, in which senators decided to act on the side of the global community rather than parochialism. But with the feisty new Republican leadership coming into the House in January, the atmosphere does not augur well for a new spate of bipartisan cooperation.

But at least the Constitution is getting a good workout.

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