Ending Combined Legislation is the First Step to Fixing Washington

Combined Legislation was never envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. Attaching “pork” to a bill or creating “omnibus bills” are ways that have been devised to pass laws that only benefit a very few people. Bills are combined to get the votes of legislators that would not vote for it as a single subject bill, or as a way to attach “pork” to bills that are sure to pass. This makes it possible for things that a majority of citizens do not want, and things that are not in the public interest, to get passed. Combined legislation developed as a way of doing an end run around the constitutional idea that a majority of  citizens—through their representatives—had to agree that the content of a bill was desirable or it should not become a law. And, that Senators, who represented the interest of their states, also thought was desirable.

Pork Barrel Politics Fuels Culture Wars

Combined Legislation allows selfishness to triumph in politics. The opportunity to combine bills tempts legislators to write bills that benefit special interests and ignore the creation of bills that would genuinely benefit citizens. Legislators will spend much of their time with lobbyists that seek favors for their personal cause, or they will work to implement the legislation of their political party that is in the party platform because of donor contributions. Combined legislation is not only theft of money from citizens, but it takes legislative focus away from matters that are important to the entire society.

Special Interest legislation leaves out the interest of the citizen

Combined Legislation Promotes Culture Wars. The ability to combine legislation fosters competition between special interests that manifests as culture wars when these interests attempt to sway public opinion and frame party platforms through rhetoric, advertising, biased studies,  polls, and academic articles. This allows for coalitions of narrow interests to pass legislation that defies sound principles of government and is opposed by a majority of citizens.  Culture wars are thus more wars between minority selfish interests and well-funded cultural viewpoints played out as political drama than as representative of the culture as a whole.  They fuel uncivil rhetoric by people angry that they are being taxed without consent. Ending combined legislation would force more concern to address the interests of the forgotten citizen for whom few political lobbies exist. For the average citizen is, unlike special interests, not asking what his country can do for him.

The Founders Instituted Checks and Balances to Prevent Spurious Legislation.

  1. The first check was to have two houses of legislation, an upper house that represented the long-term interest of the states, and a lower house that represented the will of the people.
  2. The second check was the ability of the President to veto the legislation.
  3. The third check was to have the Supreme Court overturn any unconstitutional legislation.

However, these Checks have been Ignored or Circumvented.

The first problem with the Constitution is that the founders did not clearly define a “bill” as referring to a single subject, although that was clearly their intention or all of the checks and balances they put in place would have had no meaning. However, the Constitution gave legislators power to define their own rules. Therefore, the legislators gradually redefined “bill” to include numerous sub-bills, thus being able to pass special-interest legislation that could not pass on its own merit.

The Supreme Court was derelict in its duty of ensuring that legislation occurred according to the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

The Presidents have vetoed very few “garbage bills.”

The 17th Amendment was passed to eliminate the reason for the existence of the Senate, which was to be a Constitutional check on the will of the people by representing the long-term interests of the states. By changing the Constitution to allow citizens to vote for Senators, the same interest group (citizens) became responsible for both houses, making the Senate redundant.

The 17th Amendment also took away the ability of the states, who were members of a Union of States, to have any legislative input at the Federal level, thus nailing the final nail on the lid of the coffin that buried the idea of a “union of sovereign states” and sealing the fate of a supreme federal government in which states became more like administrative districts than sovereign political units. While this transformation from “Union of States” to “Federal State” was begun by Abraham Lincoln with the Civil War, it became relatively final with the 17th Amendment. (See my book, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0).

Combined Legislation is a Primary Cause of Government Dysfunction. If Americans are to “fix Washington,” which both Republicans and Democrats admit is broken, the first and most effective step is to outlaw combined legislation, either by self-imposed rules of Congress or by a courageous Supreme Court exercising its duty.

The “Tea Party” has been a popular movement demanding an end to “pork.” And, the new Republican Congress has talked about “ending earmarks.” However, this in itself is inadequate, it will only eliminate the most egregious abuses. Without ending all combined legislation, special-interest legislation will still masquerade as public interest and pass as combined legislation even though it would fail on its own merits.

Ending Combined Legislation will Promote Public Interest Rather than Special Interest. Although, repealing the 17th Amendment and several other “viruses” that have crept into the system will help make our government more effective in creating an environment where individuals can freely pursue happiness, ending combined legislation will be the most effective first step in changing the U.S. government from a government of special interests into a government of the people. It is a step that will be required to prevent the U.S. government from collapsing under its own weight as it destroys the U.S. economy. In the absence of legislation that outlaws combined bills, gridlock is a superior alternative to “across the aisle” special-interest legislation.

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About Gordon Anderson

GORDON L. ANDERSON is the President of Paragon House, Editor-in-Chief of International Journal on World Peace, and Adjunct Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He earned an M.Div. in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Claremont Graduate University. He is author of several articles and books including Philosophy of the United States: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0.

Comments

Ending Combined Legislation is the First Step to Fixing Washington — 4 Comments

  1. Gordon; I think I asked before; How do we get anyone in congress to read these blogs and respond. Do they just want not to know what we are concerned about. It seemes to me they Glory in flailing around in brush fires, spreading them rather than snuffing them and arn’t the least concerned about truth or possible solutions.

  2. Large bills are generally a result of combined special interests. Sometimes explanations or qualifications are required, but there should be no “devil in the details.” In well-run private institutions, items presented to a board can be condensed to one page. In a well-written research paper, the thesis can be condensed to one sentence. These are signs of quality work, whereas large meandering tomes are generally signs of poor quality writing. Thus, a 2,000 page bill in Congress speaks loudly about its general incompetence. This gets verified when no one in Washington is capable of predicting the consequences of the legislation. All we know for sure is that each special interest has something in it for them, and a lot of new bureaucratic agencies will add financial overhead and rationing to the healthcare system. Because this is a government action, and government only act through power, there is no theoretical way Obamacare could create a more responsive, personal, or efficient health care system.

    Governments, by nature, can prevent harm but they cannot enforce good. Any healthcare legislation a government passes, should be to penalize doctors, hospitals, or insurance companies when they cause harm to occur to healthcare patients. The government should not be involved with the provision of care except to penalize harmful practices. One of these harmful practices is conflicts of interest when insurance companies own hospitals or patient-care facilities. In this case, the insurance company, like a government will turn to rationing services. Thus government should promote some checks and balances, but never collect money or pay any of the bills.

  3. Gordon I have always ( stand alone bills ), These 2000+ page monsters are filled with all manner of mischief. If it takes a whole staff of Lawyers a week to read it they need to toss it in the circular file and start over.

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