SCOTUS to the Rescue
Not really, at least not yet.
In recent years, the Supreme Court of the United States has seemed bound and determined to root out all vestiges of democracy within our borders. After Citizens United and McCutcheon made a mockery of campaign finance law by treating corporations as people and money as speech, last week saw a decision that fairly substantially negates the President’s ability to make recess appointments to fill vacancies the Senate doesn’t see fit to confirm or deny by an up and down vote.
It’s hard to blame SCOTUS for not wanting to get involved in a spat between the legislative and executive branches, and the 9-0 vote makes it difficult to call the decision partisan. It certainly strains the credibility of the Justices to say that if the Senate considers itself to be in session when it actually does nothing but bang the gavel a couple of times every few days, that means they are not in recess so no such appointments are valid. Making a six figure salary while taking more days off than actually doing your job (and using most of your time on the job counterproductively) is good work if you can find, which 99.99% of their constituents cannot do. Faulting the President for wanting such groups as the NLRB, CFPB and Federal Courts to be fully staffed and able to perform their legislatively prescribed duties for the American people is the wrong answer.
The particular appointments at issue here involve the NLRB, which at the time they were made was on the verge of becoming completely inoperative, as terms for sufficient members had expired to make any decisions impossible. Sort of like if terms of elected officials had expired without an election of members to cover the next term. Which was sort of the point behind the Senate GOP, which wanted to totally emasculate Federal labor law without having to actually repeal it, at least until such time as a Republican President was in place who could be counted on to replace members whose terms had expired with new appointees who were sufficiently anti-labor as to make repeal unnecessary.
That the Senate GOP has been obstructionist in the extreme when it comes to confirming Presidential appointments during the Obama Administration is no secret. Filling of appointments at all levels of the executive and judicial branches beneath the level of Cabinet Secretary or Supreme Court Justice had been at an all time low to the point where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid felt it necessary to threaten to use the so-called nuclear option and change the Senate rules to put a halt to all the nonsense filibusters being advanced on just about every nominee who required confirmation - especially to courts and other bodies like those mentioned above in dire need of leadership or members in order to carry out the stated aims of legislation already passed.
The Vice President of the United States has the Constitutional duty of presiding over the US Senate. In case of a tie vote, the Vice President casts the tiebreaker. The Senate for years has employed a mechanism by which most measures require 60, not 50, votes for ending debate before they can officially be voted on. Hard to get a tie under those circumstances. Under those terms, the senate majority, along with the American people, are held hostage by a minority which refuses to allow any business to be conducted. Thus, when combined with a House of Representatives controlled my a majority of Republicans, Congress has remained virtually deadlocked on most important matters since the GOP took control of the House after the 2010 elections.
If the President is, in effect, no longer able to make recess appointments to fill positions necessary to the proper functioning of the federal government, the Senate needs to get its act together and stop blocking them. Pretending to be in session when they are not conducting any business or even possessing a quorum fools no one but SCOTUS, apparently. We are well aware the ploy is not resulting in any new legislation or votes of any kind on anything. Using procedural ploys to delay or totally block fully qualified nominees from filling these roles without so much as a hearing, debate and vote does not do justice to them or to the people whose future livelihoods and wellbeing may be tied to decisions which are supposed to be made by them. Life does not stand still and the senate needs to do its constitutional duty, not just go through the motions and pretend it is working when it is not.
Ultimately, one would hope that after four years of this never-ending obstruction, the people would rise up, overcome all the obstacles placed in their way and beat a path to the doorsteps of their senators and representatives, jam up the switchboards and email boxes and use every available peaceful means to try to get through to them that their will is not being done by Congress as it is currently constituted. All the voter suppression and campaign finance shenanigans the rich and powerful are using in a transparent attempt to subvert our democracy are conquerable. The next election to make a statement is this November 2014, not 2016, as most of the talking heads on cable news would have us believe. But we shouldn’t need an election to make our voices heard in Washington DC and state capitals across the nation.
The attempts by those on the right to diminish programs designed to help raise the prospects of the poor and middle class, to boost the economy so it benefits more than just the top 1% of people, that increase access to affordable health care, education, housing, etc. for everyone need to be defeated for once and for all. The government should be for the good of all, not merely to protect the wealth and privilege of the fortunate few. The economy needs to work for people – that means all people, including workers, as they produce and consume to make it successful – not primarily or merely to increase profits for the wealthy who currently run our corporations and financial institutions.
Hopefully, Mitch McConnell is scared enough about his chances for re-election that he will cool it with the filibuster or the voters of Kentucky will show him to the door. Likewise, John Boehner and the House Republicans should be afraid of losing their majority, and thus their ability to continue to obstruct progress for the American people in the areas of economic equality, minimum wage, immigration reform, jobs and overall societal justice, in November. We don’t need to put up with this. These people were elected by people who decided to get up on election morning (or earlier) and vote for them. Enough of them can be replaced in November to stem the tide that has frustrated so many for so long BEFORE the next presidential election in 2016. If Democrats don’t want to stand up to the challenge, perhaps independents or other parties will, but this government by plutocracy has got to end.