Right from the Middle: The Three dictators, Last time
The process of creating legislation has been undermined by personal political interests and a dictatorship of power that has corrupted the system that was originally envisioned by the Founding Fathers of America, former Congressman William O. Lipinski explains
By William Lipinski and Brian Broeking
We talked about one of the three dictators that now runs our country, the Imperial president in my last column. This time, we will talk about the other two dictators that now run our country, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House.
These three individuals have turned our Democratic Republic into a dictatorship.
The citizens of our former democratic republic have very little to say about the way this nation is governed because their representatives have very little input into what legislation becomes law. The President, Majority Leader, and the Speaker have taken total control of the process. They meet and decide what legislation they will support and pass into law. They then in outline form turn it over to their staffs to put into legislative language.
If they turn up a few votes short they will give the minority limited input for their support. If support from the minority cannot be had, they will once again talk to their members, cajole their members or threaten their members.
Of course, one party must control the two houses of congress and the presidency too function in this manner. If we do not have one party rule nowadays then we have gridlock in which case very little or nothing is accomplished. And that is ok with both parties when they are out of power. Because gridlock doesn’t hurt their agenda. Gridlock only hurts the American people, not their party’s agenda.
Faced with no support from the minority and the vote is still very close, the Senate and House leaders will once again talk to, cajole, and threaten its members: and if they still do not have the votes, they call for help from the President. The President will make a few calls to members he has given special help, and he reminds them of that “special help.” The President then asks them for some assistance in return, and it works in an overwhelming number of cases.
This process leaves about 95% of Congress without any real influence. Our Founding Fathers tried to guard against this by making the Legislative Branch the first branch of our Federal government system because it is the branch closest to the people. The Founding Fathers also outlined how legislation was to be handed.
Legislation should be introduced by a senator or by a representative. The proposed Legislation will then be assigned to a committee or committees by the leadership. The chairman of the full committee would then assign the legislation to a subcommittee. The subcommittee would hold public hearings and bring in people who have vested interests. They then discuss, debate, amend and vote. If passed, it is sent on to the next level of scrutiny.
The following are the levels of scrutiny: full committee, House, and Senate floors, conference committee back to the House and Senate floor, and finally on to the President for his approval or disapproval.
At each level, there would be public hearings, hearings for people with vested interests, where members debate, amend and vote.
The Founding Fathers strongly agreed that all senators and all representatives should be involved in the process of creating legislation right from the start. They created a Democratic Republic to serve all the citizens of the United States of America and they believed all Senators and all Representatives must be heavily involved right from the start to preserve the Democratic Republic for all American citizens.
Remember, there are always individuals on “white horses” trying to steal our Democratic Republic. When asked what kind of government you have given us, Ben Franklin responded, a Democratic Republic, if you can keep it.
How did we come to this? I will give you some of the reasons based on my experience. Most of the members have abdicated their responsibility to leadership. Why? Because leadership has told them that is the way it has always been.
Leadership controls most of the campaign money. Leadership must make important decisions for the good of the party. If you don’t follow leadership, you will not be appointed to major committees or important select committees.
The steering and policy committee which appoints members to standing committees today is totally controlled by the leadership. 25 years ago, that was not the case. Members of the steering and policy committee were elected by their region not appointed by the leadership.
There are numerous other reasons, why individual members have lost their influence. I will only identify one more: most members prefer not doing the hard work of legislating, they prefer to instead self-promote by turning to the news media and going on radio and television to “talk” about their ideals for government.
It’s really their way to distract the public from why they have surrendered their responsibilities to represent the true interests of the American people.
(William O. Lipinski served as the Congressman originally representing the 5th then 3rd Congressional District from 1982 until 2005. He served as alderman and Democratic Committeeman for the 23rd Ward. Email Bill at BillLipinski@hotmail.com.)