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Fri December 20, 2013
A Different View of the Constitution
I was listening the other day to the Diane Rehm Show on Aspen Public Radio. It was the Friday news round-up and the conversation included, as it often has over the last three months, the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. I was startled to hear one of the listeners who called into the show assert that the reelection of President Obama in 2012 meant that there could be no questioning of the ACA by any other branch of government, particularly by the majority Republican House of Representatives. The President had won, this was his signature piece of legislation and that was that. This struck me as a dangerous assertion and not at all consistent with the structure of government laid out in the Constitution - dangerous because it suggested that decisions of the executive as to matters of law are inviolate merely because the President is the President and inconsistent with the Constitution because of the co-equal status afforded the executive and legislative branches of government.
Although Congressional Republicans forcefully challenged the ACA as it was being developed, one-party Democratic control of both Congress and the Presidency resulted in a law that appears, as it is currently unfolding, to be deeply flawed and harmful to many millions of Americans. It would have benefited from more diverse policy input than it received and if that input comes now, after the law is on the books, it’s none too late. The notion that the law’s weaknesses should not now be explored because the President was reelected is tantamount to saying that there is no role for other duly elected representatives of the people in reshaping a bad law or even questioning it.
The assertion of the listener on the Diane Rehm Show appears to me to have echoes in the recent decision of Senate Democrats to permit only a majority vote for cloture (termination of debate) for certain judicial and other Presidential nominees. This effectively gives the minority party in the Senate no voice in the confirmation process and ensures that all Presidential appointees, no matter their merits, will be confirmed by the President’s party. Given the current composition of the Senate, the removal of the filibuster represents the tyranny of the majority over the minority. Over many years, Senate rule and custom provided a voice for the minority party in the “advice and consent” process under the Constitution. Under that provision of the Constitution, the President nominates federal judges and other senior appointees of the federal government, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. If the views of the minority are irrelevant to this process, we have another example of monolithic power in the hands of the President. Not a result envisioned by the Constitution.
Frieda Wallison is Chair of the Pitkin County Republicans.
A graduate of Smith College and Harvard Law School, she practiced law for more than 30 years in New York City and Washington, D.C. as a partner in major law firms, before retiring for the good life in the Roaring Fork Valley. Beyond serving as Chair of the Pitkin County Republicans, Wallison is Republican Chair of the Third Congressional District in Colorado and a member of the Colorado Republican Party Executive Committee. She is also the President of the Snowmass/Capitol Creek Caucus and a member of Aspen Rotary. In her spare time, Wallison is a real estate developer in the mid-valley. She is married to Peter Wallison, the Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and they are parents of three and grandparents of five.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her personal Facebook page address is facebook.com/frieda.wallison
You can find out more about the Pitkin County Republicans here: http://pitkinpolitics.org/