Publius Speaks

Publius Speaks
Become A Follower

Sunday, November 2, 2014

FOUR Horsemen of the Political Apocalypse: Gridlock, Nullification, Veto & Impeachment


Last week we spoke about election consequences. Just so we don't misunderstand each other:  the posting presented last week concentrated on what the Radical Republicans have in store for us; their plans and intentions for legislation and change. It was not intended to cover the political question of what will happen if there is a Republican-dominated House and Senate and a Democrat as President. This week's post is related to that political question.

The answer is easy: GRIDLOCK! Our constitution is set up to provide checks and balances, and sometimes those c's & b's can be used politically to either score political points, or to block the intentions of one of the parties in the equation. It is highly likely that the Republicans will produce a flurry of legislation that is intentionally an affront to the Democratic Party and particularly to the President. After all, it has been the intention of the GOP from the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency to tarnish his character, his qualifications, his background, his racial origins and his many actions as the Executive and Commander-in-chief. Their motive in this case of particular legislation will be to force the President to use his veto power to block the destructive and deleterious legislation that will come forth. And, in my opinion, the President will not hesitate to do so. Hopefully, the Democrats who remain in the Senate will be able to save him from having to use his veto too often. That is, the Senate minority always has the ability to force a cloture vote on a filibuster requiring 60 votes. That tactic has been used by the Republicans all through Obama's two-term presidency. There is no reason why the Democrats, if they are in the minority after Tuesday, should hesitate to use the same tactic against the legislative initiatives certain to come from the Republican majority.

Thus, gridlock is available in terms of two very strong procedures: the constitutionally guaranteed check on the Legislature in the form of the Executive veto, and the constitutionally-sanctioned procedural rule of cloture (rules of both Houses are at least allowed and somewhat protected as to their viability by the Constitution) that requires a 3/5's vote of the Senate to close a filibuster (meaning, in essence, that it takes 60 votes to pass the legislation being filibustered).

It is conceivable, therefore, that all legislation will be stymied in the next two years - an outlook that is disquieting if not alarming because it threatens the functionality of our legislative and executive branches of the federal government. However, the Radical Republicans will rejoice in this prospect, because it will enable them to further advance their notion that the federal government is in need of diminution, and that States should be given more and more responsibility for governing and for initiating change. But please remember that "change" for Republicans is regressive not progressive. That is, they will expect the states (at least those controlled by their Party) to initiate changes that return us to a time when government was also fairly ineffectual. They will want the states to continue to:

-- restrict voting
-- restrict health care and bring to bear all the privatization possible of that system
-- promote Business and demote Labor
-- de-regulate in every area that restricts capitalism
-- encourage more privatization of governing functions to the private sector; including education
-- reduce taxes wherever possible on the already wealthy, i.e. corporations and small businesses
-- give banks and other financial institutions every break possible
-- promote business by waiving state and local taxes on them for a number of years and giving them other financial breaks to coddle them into establishing their enterprises in those states
-- become the proving grounds for Republican ideology: make contraception and abortion illegal; promote the Christian religion in public life and in schools; continue to make it difficult for women to pursue careers outside the home; build prisons, nursing homes, mental hospitals, orphanages to promote business under the guise of "taking care" of the less fortunate (in other words use re-institutionalization as a means toward capitalistic profiteering, as all of these institutions can easily be contracted out for operation by for-profit businesses right along with the boon to the construction business). 

Let's not forget the other social upheavals that Republican ideology will bring to states: pollution so bad you can taste it; unmitigated climate change so prevalent you can't escape it; law enforcement so militarized you can't stand it; public education so denuded and tainted you can't use it; taxes so high you can't afford it; class warfare and wage inequality so prevalent you can't live with it; racial segregation and separation so stringent you won't believe it; the right to privacy denuded so thoroughly that you must wall yourself off from much of the outside world.

 And, that doesn't even begin to portray the many invisible ploys that the rich and their "bought" representatives in the state legislatures and judicial systems will bring to bear: no more gay marriage or rights as "couples;" more blacks and Hispanics incarcerated for long terms and never free from their felonies even when they have served their time; more juveniles tried as adults and incarcerated for longer terms in adult prisons; restrictions on internet use and availability with the best services reserved to those who can afford them; the growth of private militias, some of which will be contracted to provide "law enforcement;" the lack of anywhere to turn when local, county or state government overrides or denies your civil rights because federal government laws, along with consumer protections, will have been nullified.

We can't possibly cover all that is waiting to happen if Republican Radicals seize control. But we can say that their Right-wing philosophy dictates their responses and their actions. That is why the Republican incumbents and challengers in upstate New York districts must all be rejected in Tuesday's Election. They demonstrate by their records - not by campaign rhetoric - that they are captives of the Radical Right and have already managed to vote with them numerous times. The consequences of electing Richard Hanna, Tom Reed, John Katco, Chris Gibson and Elise Stefanik will be exactly as I have described. Those candidates are committed to the very concepts and actions that have already been laid out above.

No wonder, then, that President Obama will have no other choice than to use his veto pen as often as he can. There will be times when some "bought" Democrats will defect to Republican thinking (gun control, immigration, and fossil fuel business promotion are a few examples), and there may then be an override of a veto, either in negotiations or by a 2/3s vote in each House of Congress. However, the evolving of state power and takeover may not always require national legislation, but may start with state legislation that could be protected by conservative justices in state courts, and the final arbiter, the Supreme Court.

That brings up another major consequence of the split in party control between the Legislative and Executive branches: Supreme Court nominations. If the President gets a chance to nominate a Supreme Court Justice in his final two years in office, whoever he nominates will run into a Senate that will most likely vote along party lines. If the Radical Republicans control the Senate, there will be no liberal nominees approved for the Supreme Court. President Obama will be forced to find a moderate judge or nominee who can win support across party lines. I dare say I cannot see that happening; I simply cannot envision a Republican Senate approving anyone nominated by President Obama. That would leave us with what might be called the ultimate gridlock: a Supreme Court reduced in size to 8 Justices with 4-4 votes on many cases, meaning they would remain undecided.

Let us bring up one more major consequence of a possible decision by the electorate to split the parties in power into a Republican Congress and Democrat Executive: impeachment of the President. The House under Republicans can come up with all the charges it has previously leveled and more. They can easily use their majority to resolve to impeach the President on those charges. The trial portion then goes to the Senate, where the conservative Chief Justice of the United States presides. Even if the Republicans hold the slim majority of 51-49, and if all Republican Senators join in an affirmative vote to even a few of the charges, the vote will be insufficient to force the President from office, because a two-thirds favorable vote of those present is required for actual conviction by the Senate. Knowing this is the case, I still would not put it past the House Republicans to at least have it on the record that Articles of Impeachment were presented and that a Resolution that impeachment was warranted was brought and passed by the House, even though it would most likely fail to be upheld in the Senate. This is what happened to President Bill Clinton, and in spite of not being upheld in the Senate, it is on the record that President Clinton was impeached (read as "indicted") by the House. Here's a summary presented by a writer for AboutNews.com:

"No American President has ever been forced from office due to impeachment.
In fact, only four times in our history, has Congress held serious discussions of impeachment:
Andrew Johnson was actually impeached when Congress became unhappy with the way he was dealing with some post-Civil War matters, but Johnson was acquitted in the Senate by one vote and remained in office.
Congress introduced a resolution to impeach John Tyler over state's rights issues, but the resolution failed.
Congress was debating his impeachment over the Watergate break-in when President Richard Nixon resigned.
William J. Clinton was impeached by the House on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in relationship to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was eventually acquitted by the Senate.

The Impeachment Process In the House of Representatives The House Judiciary Committee decides whether or not to proceed with impeachment. If they do...
The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee will propose a Resolution calling for the Judiciary Committee to begin a formal inquiry into the issue of impeachment.
Based on their inquiry, the Judiciary Committee will send another Resolution to the full House stating that impeachment is warranted, or that impeachment is not called for.
The Full House (probably operating under special floor rules set by the House Rules Committee) will debate and vote on each Article of Impeachment.
Should any one of the Articles of Impeachment be approved by a simple majority vote, the President will be "impeached." However, being impeached is sort of like being indicted for a crime. There still has to be a trial, which is where the US Senate comes in." (explained above)
It is, once again, in the hands of the Electorate as to whether these dire consequences shall become a reality. If the electorate decides to put Republicans in charge in both Houses of the Congress, we can expect more than simple dysfunction or disarray. We can expect a battle between White House and the Congress, with the Supreme Court lurking in the background. Unfortunately, the consequences of this election will spread far and wide, and will not affect only those who voted for this outcome. We shall all bear the brunt of an uninformed electorate making uninformed decisions based on ideology rather than critical examination. (Didn't I say somewhere that we desperately need political science and civic education in our schools?) This off-year, critical watershed election is almost upon us. Not only must YOU vote; it is incumbent on each of us to get others of like mind to cast a ballot for progressive reform thinkers, and not for radically conservative and regressive ideologues who intend to turn our government upside down.