The Constitutional Failure in Congress

There are usually only two ways to do things in government: the right way, and the expedient way. The right way is usually a long and drawn-out process that gets sabotaged every step of the way by special interests wanting to leave their mark. The expedient way often showcases the Law of Unintended Consequences and results in legislation that takes years or decades of tweaking to get right. As Congress debates expanding the House to give voting representation in Congess to the District of Columbia, we see that they are, again, choosing to do things quickly as opposed to correctly.

As it stands, Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution only allows representatives from a state and only allows representation to be based off of census figures. This should end the debate about giving D.C. a voting member of the House and end the deal-making to give Utah an extra seat, yet Congress is trying to look the other way and ignore the elephant in the room. Congress has been doing this for decades, but that shouldn't make it any less infuriating.

It all smacks of political expediency. The pro-D.C. forces don't want to risk another Consitutional Amendment going down in flames (as it did in 1985 after a 7-year voting period). Utahns feel (and probably rightfully so) that they were cheated out of a 4th seath because so many of their residents were out of the state on LDS missions. Representatives from other states figure they can get this passed by almost guaranteeing a safe Republican seat in Utah in exchange for a safe Democratic seat in D.C. In the midst of it all, Congressman Jim Matheson of Utah sees his own political expediency in opposing the measure since his district would become more liberal than he is, placing him at risk for a defeat in the primaries. Has your head started spinning yet, or is it just me?

Congress also had a chance to exercise their Constitutional authority in 2001 by declaring war on Al-Qaeda and/or Afghanistan. Such a declaration would have probably passed with an overwhelming majority and would have re-established Congress, not the Executive, as the weilders of the powers of war. Instead, they took the cheap way out with a blank-check "authorization for use of military force" that abdicated both their liability and responsibility to the Executive, something they have no right to do.

Long before that, Congress tried to abdicate their budgeting responsibilities with the Line Item Veto Act in 1996, an act later found to be entirely unconstitutional. Congress fixed some of those issues later this year by granting the President to ask for a revote on rider bills, but it still isn't Constitutional as it grants the President powers he does not have: calling for a second vote to pass legislation. While it's popular and probably necessary, Congress just can't find the willpower to do it the right way.

So long as Congress is only willing to find quick and easy solutions to problems presented to it, we will continue to have an ever-expansive, ever-invasive, and ever-ineffective federal government. We should demand more accountability from our federal leaders and expect them to do less to solve our problems if we hope to get out of this mess. 

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