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We Are Ignoring The Framers… Again

Congress enjoys proposing and passing convoluted bills. It’s the only way you can fool Americans.

The older I get, I am increasingly irritated by the ways in which our government has strayed from its founding norms. I’m not talking about societal or technological improvements or other facets of American life that had to be changed. I’m talking about the architectonic ideas that guide good governance.

Following the Omnibus debacle, I was livid that Congress would pass such a monstrosity of a bill. There were policies in it that I disagreed with, but most importantly, its structure prevented anyone from knowing what they were actually voting for.

Rand Paul famously tweeted out key elements of the bill that he found objectionable (and I don’t believe he made it all the way through). These types of bills cover such disparate areas of policy that voting for or against them can be construed in any number of ways.

President Trump vowed that he would never sign a bill like it again.

James Madison explicitly warned against large bills.

In Federalist 62, he says,

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

But is the Omnibus bill the only type of bill that violates this principle? By no means!

Congress is currently working on several immigration proposals. Immigration elicits very strong and varied opinions, yet it is one issue that many of our elected officials refuse to take a definitive stance on. They are worried about alienating hard liners, compassionate moderates, immigration libertarians, and open border advocates. They attempt to shift the blame by proposing convoluted bills, which no sane person would vote for if they had the option of voting for each item of the bill.

We are told that immigration reform has to be a compromise. Why? Compromise achieves nothing because it forces both sides to concede points that harm their own goals. It’s a terrible electoral strategy and invites incessant media spin.

Consider the following:

Congressman A is an immigration hawk.

Congressman B is an open borders advocate.

There is a proposed a bill that grants a long and limited pathway to citizenship to DACA recipients, merit based visas, full funding for the wall, revises deportation proceedings, and has very little chance of garnering liberal support.

Then let’s say that there is another proposal that grants sweeping protections to DACA recipients and is open to more liberal policy goals, but still includes elements of reform that are conservative in nature.

How do the congressmen vote? Each compromise bill is set to be watered down. Each congressman cannot, in good faith, vote for either bill, as a compromise would betray the voters.

Did the hawk vote for a wall that came with amnesty?

Did the liberal vote for the amnesty that came with a wall?

Are they complicit in supporting a policy that is antithetical to their principles?

The first proposal is being considered by congress now. It’s the result of a failed attempt by moderate republicans to force a vote on protections for DACA. According to the Associated Press and the Washington Post, several bills have been proposed to address a host of immigration issues, with support being hard to gauge. Some conservatives are behind it. The President might support it. Some moderates are ok with it. And some conservatives are opposed.

Why do they bother trying to force members of congress to accept unpalatable measures? The Washington Post notes that Democrats will not vote for some of the proposed compromises. And we know that the minute the bill gets too liberal, Republicans won’t support it.

The only thing left is a milquetoast bill that achieves nothing of substance and manages to offend voters who elected individuals with specific views on immigration.

It’s not right to make Luis Gutierrez support a wall in order to get amnesty.

It’s not right to make Ted Cruz support amnesty in order to get a wall.

Wouldn’t voters prefer to know what their representatives think about specific policies?

Wall? Yes or No?

DACA? Yes or No?

Amnesty? Yes or No?

More visas? Yes or No?

Due Process for detained migrants? Yes or No?

Merit based visas? Yes or No?

More refugees? Yes or No?

This clarity is better for voters in both parties.

There should be individual bills on individual points of policy. This prevents the inclusion of poison pills, pork, and other elements of law that have no bearing on the policy being addressed.

Aside from the electoral ramifications of supporting convoluted bills or supporting single bills that clarify a politician’s stance on the importance of a certain policy, the length of bills also has ramifications for term length.

Madison implies that senators have a longer term length so as to prepare them for understanding the legislative process. It is to make them familiar with law. While the House remains close to the people through frequent elections, the Senate is more deliberative and less prone to the passions of political whims. From this, we can infer that if six years were sufficient for short bills, what amount of time should Senators serve when bills are much larger? Could this possibly explain why so many Senators serve for decades?

Is anyone actually for letting elected politicians stay in power for eons?

If any bill is to respect the framers’ intentions, it would remain limited in scope. This might even solve Congress' popularity problem.

They [politicians] are worried about alienating hard liners, compassionate moderates, immigration libertarians, and open border advocates. Therein, lies the problem of problems with the political class. Far too many are spineless cowards that run on one thing and once elected do the exact opposite to suit their own political aims which is to get re-elected. WHY? are these charatans continually winning election after election? The voter has to take responsibility.

Voting on only one issue per bill would definitely be preferable. But it wouldn't always be possible to garner enough votes to pass anything, if inflexible members of Congress were not granted something they wanted in return for supporting something the other side wanted. On highly controversial matters, stalemate is inevitable unless there is a reward for both sides included in the bill. The Republican party is heavily divided on the issue of immigration, so simply having a Congressional majority wouldn't guarantee them sufficient votes to pass certain single-issue bills.

Let's be real about this. There is no official Republican stance on immigration - and Republicans hold a wide variety of opinions about it. Nativism came to the forefront with Trump's hard-line stances on immigration, but the Reagan tradition of being reasonable and compassionate with immigrants still has strong representation within the party. I support securing the southern border, but at that point my agreement with Trumpian nativists, about immigration, ends. I don't agree with any of their other desired policies AT ALL. And there are many like me, within the Right. You might get members of Congress who share my view to vote for a wall, but you won't get them to vote to summarily deport people who have lived in the States for years (unless they have committed felonies while living here).

Some of us read in our Bibles that God always extends grace and compassion, and gives people a chance to repent and restore themselves - before enacting His final retribution for their sins. We see Him provide options for people to make restitution for certain wrongs, rather than face punishment. We see how He provided cities of refuge for people who accidentally committed crimes. And we see how He only judges suddenly and fiercely when people have committed something heinous. We believe that no human justice system can be pleasing to Him unless it imitates His example in this regard.

Therefore we are not knee-jerk hardliners relative to immigration, because illegally immigrating isn't a heinous crime. It's usually an act of desperation - because our immigration system regularly takes 20 years or more to process a single application to immigrate legally, and people in great need can't wait that long. Many of us on the Right believe that our government should correct the ridiculous, inexcusable slowness of our legal immigration system before condemning desperate people for not employing it.

After all, who among us has not sometimes taken a wrong turn in our lives, when motivated by desperation? Desperation can make a great many people do a great many things that they otherwise would not do. So it's only reasonable to be more understanding and sympathetic of people in desperate situations, who have immigrated illegally.

(edited)

If both sides were willing to compromise, Congressional leaders wouldn't have to hide behind long, convoluted bills. But neither side is willing to compromise, so we end up with long, convoluted bills. It's quite uncomplicated.

While explaining Madison's view of the difference between the House and the Senate, you failed to mention the most important difference. Senators were to be chosen by State legislators to represent the States while the House was chosen by the people to represent them. Enacting the 17th Amendment, which moved the Senate into the same method as the House, essentially removed the States from consideration in Washington, DC, The 17th Amendment should be repealed. Congress will never propose such an amendment, but the States can according to Article V of the Constitution. It's past time we did so.
www.conventionofstates dot com

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This article says what I've been saying to friends of mine! Make bills smaller and to the point - yes/no answers! As for gridlock, that's what government should do if one of these bills can't get passed! The Senate is supposed to provide gridlock so that bad legislation doesn't get to the President! I am all for the Article V Convention of States to allow this country to get back to what we were founded on and rid the Senate as well as the House from the corruption and cesspool it's become! Legislators aren't there for their purpose but too many of them think they are rulers and not servants! Time we cleaned that swamp!!!!

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