At the start of each new session of congress, all members take the following oath which was enacted in 1884:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: [So help me God.]”
The Constitution which the members take an oath to support and defend says: The Congress shall have Power:
“To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;”
Republicans recurrently claim that virtually everything President Obama does is unconstitutional. The GOP reacts to almost every move he makes by screaming unconstitutional at the top of their lungs. They have used this spurious tactic in a blatant attempt to delegitimize the Obama presidency. Finally in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, President Obama said:
“George, here’s the problem. – if we continue to set a precedent in which a president, any president, a Republican president- a Democratic president- where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives- if- if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills- the other party can simply sit there and say, “Well, we’re not gonna put- pay the bills unless you give us what our- what we want,” that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.
It is encouraging to see the president turn the tables on Republicans and use their argument against them. One key difference exists between President Obama’s argument and the one screamed repeatedly by the Republicans against him. President Obama is correct.
Although the mainstream media gets caught up in the drama of the standoff, few bother to tell Republicans they are engaging in unconstitutional behavior and violating their oath of office. Congress has a constitutional obligation to pay the nation’s bills. As the party in control of the House, Republicans have a crucial role to play in meeting this obligation. What House Republicans are threatening to do changes the separation of powers and destabilizes the coordinate branches of government without changing the constitution. This tactic amounts to an attempted coup
The Constitution explicitly empowers congress to borrow money, pay the debts, and provide for the general welfare of the United States. In order to keep their sworn oath and bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States members of congress cannot abdicate these powers nor do any act injurious to the general well-being of the United States. Such behavior by members of congress can be described in many ways, but it cannot be called “faithful discharge of the duties of their office.” Nonetheless, such faithless and unconstitutional behavior is precisely what many Republicans are now exhibiting.
Since 1944, America’s debt ceiling has been increased 94 times – 50 times under Republican presidents and 44 times under Democratic presidents. Up until the mid-90s, this was largely a routine part of congressional business. But in the fall of 1995, Republican House leaders Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and John Boehner announced that within seven years they wanted $245 billion in tax cuts, entitlement reform and a balanced budget. President Clinton refused to give in and Americans dealt with the most serious government shutdown in U.S. history.
Once again, irresponsibility by Republicans in congress has set the nation on a course toward twin crises. The deadline for funding the government is Sept. 30, when a so-called “continuing resolution” enacted last March expires. By mid-October or early November, the U.S. Treasury likely will run out of borrowing authority. Without an increase of the $16.7 trillion cap that is written into law, the federal government faces an historic default on its debt that would create havoc in global financial markets.
And so, as Congress revs up for yet another gut-wrenching fiscal fight, partisan participants and non-partisan observers alike see more evidence of a dysfunctional legislature that already is the laughing stock of the country.
“The anarchists have taken over,” declared, a Democrat, referring to the fiscal fights. “We’re in a position here where people who don’t believe in government – and disbelief and distrust in the government is what the Tea Party is all about – are winning,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Chris Krueger, of the Guggenheim Partners financial services firm, observed on Thursday: “The House Republican caucus is virtually ungovernable.”
Political scholars Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann tell Bill that Congress’ failure is symptomatic of a legislative branch reduced to dysfunction, partisan ravings and obstruction.
In their book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism: they argue that congressional gridlock is mostly the fault of right wing radicals within the Republican Party who engage in “policy hostage-taking” to extend their political war against the president.
While the Framers of our constitutional republic separated powers and enabled checks and balances, they did not intend and would not support undeclared warfare between the branches of government. The constitution describes an empowered and operational government. It is not a design for stagnation and stalemate. The hazard arises because the constitution must be activated by human beings who are fully capable of improper and detrimental behavior.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, the party that once saved our constitutional union has now become the party that threatens its continuance. Such hostility toward a duly elected president and the government ordained and established under the constitution has not been present since the middle of the nineteenth century. Boehner and the Republicans are sabotaging the constitution and using the debt limit as a pretext. But as they have demonstrated over the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Republicans would rather talk about the constitution than adhere to it.
Let there be no mistake or mincing of words, Bob Woodward, not exactly an Obama booster, has accused the Republican Party of trying to blackmail and extort Obama into defunding Obamacare. Mr. Woodward said, “This is really serious. Back in 2011, when the crisis visited them, the Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner was running around and saying if we don’t fix this, we could trigger a depression worse than the 1930s.” Now he continues, “Republicans are out here, a group of them in the House essentially using extortion and blackmail methods to say, if we don’t defund Obamacare we’re not going to do the routine things of government.” Such words are an apt description of Republican statements and tactics in September of 2013. Such behavior falls short of the duty of congress to “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”
At what point does such dereliction of duty become gross malfeasance of office almost to the point of treason? This is a question that must be candidly asked and thoughtfully answered.
About the Author: Larry Conley
I live in Allegheny County, PA. I am married and a father of twins. I served in the U S Army and saw hostile fire in Vietnam. When I was in the Army I took and oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I have never rescinded that oath. br> For whatever time remains for me, I will do all in my power to answer the question, "What can I do for my country?" br > View My Profile