On the public debt and deficit crisis, the White House, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, Judd Gregg (the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee) and other leaders (but not Speaker Pelosi, yet) want Congress to create a bipartisan commission that would have authority to add new taxes and rewrite all the tax codes, all the entitlement laws and any other laws affecting revenues or expenses in order to reduce the deficit to no more than 3 percent of gross domestic product. In other words, the commission could transmogrify the entire body of U.S. law, and then -- reporting back to Congress after the election -- each house of Congress would have one unamendable up-or-down vote.
What a shocking abrogation of representative government. This is not a matter of policy; it is a matter of constitutional process. Even our friends at the left-wing Daily Kos condemned this as "particularly galling" and favorably quoted the "strong opposition" statement of the progressive Campaign for America's Future, as do I:
"Those supporting this circumvention of the normal process have stated openly the desire to avoid political accountability. Americans -- seniors, women, working families, people with disabilities, young adults, children, people of color, veterans, communities of faith and others -- expect their elected representatives to be responsible and accountable for shaping such significant, far-reaching legislation."
Amen, my brothers and sisters of the left. The day that either of us loves our constitutional process less than we would love to see some particular policy enacted -- that's the day democracy dies in America.
Finally, as the White House does not expect to be able to pass a cap-and-trade bill in the Senate, it has announced that it intends -- without benefit of legislation -- to have the Environmental Protection Agency regulate (i.e., tax, restrict or prohibit) any source that emits as little as 250 tons of carbon dioxide a year (or, in some cases, 100 tons). At 250 tons a year, the kitchen in a restaurant, the heating system in an apartment or office building, or the running a family farm would trigger federal regulation; potentially, more than 1 million buildings, 200,000 manufacturing operations and 20,000 farms would fall under the arbitrary power of the state.
Of course, all these methods have been used before -- commissions to decide base closings or Social Security changes, sharply interpreted expansion of regulatory authority over some small new category of creature or process, middle-of-the-night legislative passage of a pork-laden spending bill.
But the proposals before us now are of such a magnitude as to transform American life and work as we have known it. To have such momentous decisions made in the backroom by a half-dozen leaders (without the public's having a chance to comment) and then to have it rubber-stamped by obedient backbench representatives and senators who have not even asserted their prerogative to read the bills they are told to vote for -- if that were to happen, then our people's Congress would become like the lackey-filled old Soviet Parliament.
To paraphrase Hannah Arendt: For the leaders to "speak in the form of commanding" and for the rank and file to "hear in the form of obeying" is not a transaction between free people.
Whatever the motives of their leaders, it is within the power -- and it is the duty -- of the rank-and-file members of Congress to insist on regular legislative order. Their careers -- to say nothing of the republic -- may require that insistence.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.