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ON THE INSIDE:
IN THIS ISSUE-
-THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
¨ A series of related artilces on the house
¨ My proposal for Disassembling the house
LINKS to Articles and Items of Interest
THE INCREASING DISFUNCTION
OF OUR REPRESENTATIVES
By Ivan W. Parkins
When our Constitution was adopted Virginia was America’s most populous state. Following the Census of 1790 it received 19 Representatives. Today, following the Census of 2010, VA has about ten times as many people and gets slightly over half as many Representatives. Those radically changed ratios are a significant part of our national problems today.
Yes, we have much faster travel and communication facilities today. But, time, in days and years is not much changed. And any of the “intimacy” that a Representative is supposed to establish and maintain with his individual constituents still requires almost as much time as it did more than two centuries ago.
The role of the national government in our lives has increased greatly. The officials that our Constitution provides to represent us are less and less able to do that. Also, in recent decades, fewer of those Americans eligible to vote have bothered to do so for Representatives.
This is not a formula for “government by the people.”
…. PARTISANSHIP AND FAILURE OF THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE
The current House of Representatives, led by Speaker Boehner and including Tea Partiers, is the only substantial Republican majority in that branch of our federal government since the Eightieth Congress of 1947-48. And, like that of the Eightieth, this Republican majority came in during the off-year election under a Democrat President. No Republican President in more than eighty years has enjoyed the support of so large a House majority; all Democrat Presidents in that period have had at least one majority that was larger than any of the Republican majorities.
I do aim my criticisms, following, at developments in our political system, developments that we and some of our forbearers have permitted to happen—not especially at current occupants of the House.
…..WHAT OUR CONSTITUTION DOES NOT MENTION—PARTIES
Before the new American nation had out-lived the Presidency of George Washington, political parties, Federalist plus Anti-Federalist or Democrat, had appeared. And, even before popular elections of presidential electors and Senators, parties were working to assure that the three branches were usually in synch. Off-year elections of Representatives created some partisan divisions, as did the six year terms of Senators. But, by the first presidential election in which as many as 9 or 10% of Americans participated, Andrew Jackson’s in 1828, partisanship was assuring that any winner of a popular majority and the Presidency would get also a majority likely to support him in the House of Representatives.
That partisan unity of President, House of Representatives, and (often) the Senate prevailed until 1956. In a year that saw President Eisenhower win by a landslide, the House of Representatives was won by Democrats. Perhaps “Ike’s” recent heart attack and the WWII basis of his fame were responsible. The “anomaly” was not much noticed.
Actually, the shift was more than an anomaly. Later Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and GHW Bush won four popular majorities, two of them landslides, but not one Republican House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Presidents Kennedy (49.7%), Johnson (61.7%), and Carter (50.1%) saw nothing except House majorities of their own party.
Recently, Republican President George Bush did enjoy some small majorities of his own party in the House. And, Democrat President Obama, though greeted initially by a Democrat House, lost it in a particularly severe off-year reversal of partisanship.
To what should such trends be attributed?
…...ONE MAJOR FLAW IN THE
One of the least realistic themes of the pre-2012 campaigning is the charge, often made by both Democrats and Tea Partiers, that Republicans should share in blame for long term imbalances in our federal financial policies. That, I contend, is largely an appeal to public ignorance.
Anyone with basic knowledge of our nation’s constitutional system and history will recognize that to enact, and to manage the budgeting of, major programs such as Social Security and national health insurance requires the cooperation of all three elective branches. But, in the past half century, Congresses have been overwhelmingly Democrat in composition and increasingly partisan in behavior.
In the more than fifty years since John Kennedy became President, he, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and now President Obama, have all had years of partisan majorities in Congress larger than those of any recent Republican President. Indeed, only George W. Bush, among Republican Presidents, has had any such time at all, and his congressional majorities were small.
Republican successes have been, mostly, in foreign and military matters, fields where the Constitution gives prior responsibility to the Chief Executive (and that Democrats had nearly abandoned following 1968 in Vietnam).
PERSPECTIVE FOR 2012
By Ivan W. Parkins
By the 1960s television was the dominant news medium in America. Meanwhile, many thousands of “scholars” were being minted to teach the growing millions of college students. An information system that had been dominated by owners (including churches) and advertisers was acquiring national influence and an enhanced vision of its own “rights”. It wanted “changes.” With haste, and limited creative vision of its own, it accepted reversals of past values and behavior as “progressive.”
By the advent of the twenty-first century, the costs of such haste were becoming obvious. And new elements in the media, i.e. talk radio and cable television, were helping to make the public aware of costs, in human lives as well as in trillions of dollars, of the earlier decades of “progress.”
This nation’s balance sheet is now public issue number one, and the need for balance extends to much more than economics.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT : DISASSEMBLING THE REPRESENTATIVES
Section 1 The office and duties of Representative, described in Article 1, Section 2, shall be modified to permit their fulfillment by persons who remain within the several congressional districts. Except for ceremonial purposes, no House or other assembly of Representatives will exist.
Section 2 Representatives will serve as communications links between the Public and the Government of the United States. To that end, the ratio of population to Representatives shall not exceed one hundred thousand. And, an office well equipped with communicating devices shall be maintained in each congressional district.
Section 3 The legislative powers of Representatives shall include the power of a majority of all Representatives to enact proposals submitted to them by either a majority of the Senate or the President of the United States. In case either the Senate or the President has not approved the measure so enacted, it shall be forwarded to that branch for action. If the Senate or the President should reject the measure, it will, again, be voted upon by the Representatives, a majority of whom may, by their affirmative votes, make it law.
The President of the United States and two-thirds of Senators shall have the power to enact legislation which may take effect after 60 days. If, within those 60 days, thirty percent of Representatives demand to vote upon them, such measures shall not take effect unless approved by a majority of Representatives.
Representatives may propose, and a petition by thirty percent of Representatives may initiate action upon, legislation.
Section 4 To facilitate the above processes, an Office of Representation shall be established at the seat of the Government. The Office of Representation shall receive and dispense information between the Representatives and other branches of the Government. Such information shall include all votes and petitions of the Representatives, and all legislative or other business of Senate and President to which the assent of the Representatives may be necessary. Additional communications and information, supporting and opposing the above, may be gathered and dispensed through this channel.
The Office of Representation shall be headed by an eleven-member Representation Board, of whom two each shall be selected and serve at the pleasure of the President and the Senate. Seven shall be selected by lot from among Representatives whom have completed at least one term in that office; their service shall be for brief overlapping terms.
The Representation Board shall select and advise a Director of Representation, subject to confirmation by a majority of Representatives. The Director may be suspended from his duties and a temporary replacement may be designated, by a majority of the Board. Removal of the Director will become effective upon the approval of a replacement by a majority of Representatives.
Section 5 The elections of Representatives shall take place prior to the elections of President, Vice President, and Senators. Qualifications as candidates in the general elections for President and Vice President, or for Senator, shall be established by securing the signature of at least twenty percent of Representatives, in the United States or in particular states, on petitions of candidacy. For this purpose, Representatives may support only one candidate per office per election.
Section 6 Except as noted above, it is not the intent of this Amendment to alter the office, powers, or manner of choosing Representatives. Detailed procedures for initiating tax measures, bringing impeachment charges, and for exercising other powers of the Representatives may be provided by law. The apportionment of Representatives shall be determined as provided in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3, of the Constitution of the United States, amended. Additional provisions for the organization and disciplining of Representatives are to be initiated by that branch alone.
Section 7 Amendment 17 shall be altered to provide that the Senate of the United States shall be composed of three Senators for each state.
Section 8 The provision of Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 2 regarding presidential appointments “by and with the advise and consent of the Senate” shall be altered to allow that, in cases where the Senate fails to either confirm or reject within sixty days of the submission, a commission may be issued at the discretion of the President alone.