Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Priorities and their constituencies

Use of sloppy, imprecise language and [intentional] misreading of the U.S. Constitution are favorite gripe of mine, particularly when the abuse of the Constitution is at the hands of our representatives in the Congress.

During yesterday's NPR story on the repeal of the Congress' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly opened the piece with:

For those anxious for the Clinton-era law that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military to be repealed, the wait may be longer than expected.

Longer than expected? Why's that?

While he was on the campaign trail, President Obama promised to work to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." And in January, on the eve of becoming White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs reiterated that Obama would repeal the law.

But Obama can't simply sign an executive order to overturn the law — he has to persuade Congress to change it.

If Robert Gibbs really reiterated that [President] Obama would "repeal the law", I'm hoping that now Mr. Gibbs is in the White House, he has a better grip on the executive powers given to the president by Article II of the U.S. Constitution [hint: the president has no power to repeal a law].

That [obvious] fact aside, why does the 111th Congress need any persuasion?

And Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, says he does not expect the issue to be an early priority for lawmakers.

"I'm going to be working with colleagues to see how much support there is for it," Levin says. "And where along the process we can take that issue up. I just don't think we can give that a high priority, given the situation that we face," like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic meltdown.

That's rich. The Congress is spending time on the so-called District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (S. 160 and H.R. 157), including a procedural vote today in the Senate. Given the fact the DC House Voting Rights Act has NOTHING to do with either the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the over-hyped, crisis du jour, "economic meltdown", Sen Levin's explanation seems oddly incomplete. 

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who is sponsoring legislation as early as next week in the House to lift the ban, says it's a significant priority, but not necessarily while Congress is "triaging the effects of very bad tax policy from the Bush administration," and "people are losing their homes and their jobs."

I'd ask Rep. Tauscher why, if "Congress is 'triaging the effects of very bad tax policy from the Bush administration'", the Congress has time to spend on arguably unconstitional legislation that will likely tie up the federal courts.

Also, I hasten to remind readers that the U.S. Constitution contains the following passage: 

"Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

...." -- U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8.

Constitutionally speaking, the tax policy to which Rep. Tauscher (D-CA) refers is tax law, passed by the U.S. Congress. Blaming bad tax law off on the administration does real damage to our citizen's understanding of their constitution, and causes people like me to question if our representatives have read the document lately. Note: the venerable Sen. Byrd (D-WV) is known to carry a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution wherever he goes.

Secretary Gates is then quoted:

" 'Don't ask, don't tell' is law — it is a political decision," Gates says. "And if the law changes, we will comply with the law."

Yep. It's a political decision, made by the U.S. Congress, in accordance with Article I of our constitution. The Congress needs nothing from the administration to change this law.

And Tauscher says the argument about igniting a controversial debate is nonsense.

"I would only say that it is always the right time to right a wrong," she says. "And this has been a very big wrong."

The congresswoman calls repealing the law "the last big piece of civil rights legislation left."

Tauscher plans to introduce the legislation, but she's still waiting to see when the Obama White House will start fighting to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Okay, this is really too much. The administration is unneeded in this discussion, since we're talking about legislation, not regulation. Rep. Tauscher is waiting for the administration to "start fighting"? With what, and with whom? The U.S. Congress? Come on. The Congress is stalling, and it ought to fess up on the issue, instead of generating a smoke screen behind which it can hide.

“America is ready to get rid of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. All that is required is leadership.” -- President Barack Obama, in a speech to the Human Rights Campaign in November 2007

Actually, all that is required is legislation, and the 111th Congress certainly has proven their ability to pass legislation. So, Rep. Tauscher, let's see some of that leadership that the people in your district sent you to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate. Let the debate begin.

No comments: