Sunday, April 3, 2011

Republicans Fail MIddle School Civics

It appears that Repbulicans have forgotten how a bill becomes a law. Two hundred twenty Republican members of the House of Representatives voted through a bill which ignores the constitutinoal reality of how laws are made. A bill must be passed by both houses of Congress, a feat which usually requires that both houses pass versions of the bill then negotiate in a conference committee to find a solution that will pass both houses. The compromise bill, if voted for in both houses, goes to the President's desk for either a signature or a veto. Republicans have a different take on the matter:
Under the bill, the budget already passed by the House and rejected by the Senate becomes law if the Senate does not reverse course and approve it by April 6. The current budget that pays for the government runs out two days later, meaning that if no agreement is reached on spending for the remaining six months of this budget year, part of the government would shut down on April 9.
That's how democracy works. I put my idea forward- if you agree with it, my idea becomes law. If you disagree, then my idea still becomes law because I say so. That's how governing works in Iran, Libya, North Korea, Ivory Coast, and Syria, and if it's good enough for third-world plutocracies, it should be good enough for America.

The laughably unconstitutional bill has proved hard pill to swallow even for their traditional blogagandist cheerleaders, who can, afterall, read. The constitution is very clear on this matter:
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
Republicans have been paying a lot of lipservice to the Constitution during the 112th Congress, reading the document on the floor of the House on January 16th, and inserting legally pointless clauses that point to the part of the Constitution which allows each bill. Ostensibly, this bill points to the smudged space where John Boehner feverishly attempted to erase the concept of democracy from the Constitution.

Republicans began the 112th Congress with a reading of the Constitution, including Article I § 7. Six representatives were assigned to read the how-a-bill-becomes-a-law section. If the January 6th reading of the Constitution were anything but farcical, we would expect the basic mechanics of the Article describing the workings of the federal legislature to at least be familiar to its members on April 1st. How did the readers of Article I, § 7 do? IN order, here is how the readers of the pertinent Constitutional provision voted on this bill: Pascrell (No), Wilson of South Carolina(Aye), Al Green (No), Gowdy (Aye), Davis of California (No), and LoBiondo (Aye). Mr. Goodlatte, who presided over the reading, also voted Aye. All four Republicans who were on the record reading the words of the section or facilitating the reading either misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misplaced their memory of simple English.

News organizations reported last week that polls show Americans have a stunning lack of appreciation for American history or requisite knowledge to be an informed citizen. I'm skeptical that those polls really show such a low aptitude for civics. After all, they're low stakes affairs over the phone with sometimes confusing wording.

On the other hand, 220 sitting members of the House of Representatives just failed a high-stakes test of their civic literacy. Making the stakes much higher and the situation far worse, action from this anti-Constitution majority is required to keep our national house in order. Paying our soldiers, providing loans to small businesses and students, funding research vital to curing cancer, pursuing justice, and protecting against nuclear disasters all require federal funding. 220 middle-school civics flunkies are standing in our way. Where are the elitist howls of superiority and pity now?

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