Pick up your copy of the 1788 Federalist Papers, and you will see Founding Father and Virginia statesman James Madison noted, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicial in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
[Reposted from News & Advance | Mark Lloyd | June 8, 2015]
This long-held belief that the accumulation of too much power by any individual or a government is one of the greatest threats to freedom and personal liberty is a key tenet of our unique form of government.
The Founders designed our three-branch system of government as equal and autonomous, while at the same time ensuring these branches of government were limited by their constitutionally defined areas of authority or jurisdiction. President Obama tested this constitutional construct earlier this year by circumventing Congress to write his own version of immigration law, granting amnesty to upwards of 5 million people in this country illegally.
That move was immediately challenged by those who understand and cherish the constitutional responsibility of Congress in making and changing laws. This action appeared to many as more typical of a royal decree from a monarch rather than an elected American president. Roughly half the states in the union have challenged his immigration order, and it’s now winding its way through the courts. What’s dumbfounding is that at the very moment this huge overstep of power by the president is being challenged, Congress is contemplating handing over its constitutional responsibility to oversee trade in a controversial bill known as Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track.
Handing Fast Track to the president — any president — is a complete abdication of responsibility by the very people we elected, our congressional representatives, who we are paying to perform an integral role in the governing of our Republic. If granted, the president will use this authority to ram through the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), a so-called “trade” bill negotiated in secret, with more tentacles than an octopus, kept under lock and key, and guarded from the view of the American public under the guise of being a “classified document.”
Outspoken members of the president’s own party, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and members across the aisle, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, have called him out on this very issue, demanding that the administration make public the entire trade deal so that all citizens can actually see the details of the agreement and then debate it on its own merits in the open daylight. No dice.
Adding to the problem is the fact that TPP is not the only massive “trade” deal looming, and once Fast Track is passed, this president could literally be off to the races, pushing through deal after deal without a smidgen of input from Congress. In fact, with the passage of Fast Track, the choice of countries to negotiate with for future trade deals is actually signed over to the President. Scared yet?
Those in favor of Fast Track have argued that Congress retains the right to eventually vote for the deal, or maybe not. But, get this, what they fail to mention is that once the House committee with jurisdiction discharges a bill, the process only allows 20 hours of debate in either chamber, with the caveat than no amendments or changes to the bill can be made. It’s either an up or down, take it or leave it, vote with strict time constraints and no changes. And the trade bill doesn’t even have to overcome the standard 60-vote threshold in the Senate that other bills require, which not only demonstrates just how much authority Congress has signed over, but also violates the Article II treaty clause. Let that sink in.
Instead of Fast Track, the House and Senate need to return to what is known as the “regular order” of business, whereby documents are made public and debates are televised. Sadly, despite the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to return to “regular order,” Fast Track, the very antithesis of it, is being pushed through.
I truly believe that James Madison and many of the Founding Fathers would be completely disgusted by this entire issue. They would likely be incredulous that Congress would so willingly sign away its constitutional authority. Hopefully, members of the House will remember their duty and their oath of office, and say no to Fast Track.