Hmmm – Half of These are Rooted in the US Senate
It’s a Good Time to Take Stock of Some of Our Old Standbys
The news over the last year or so has given us some vivid reminders of some elements of our national governance system really seem out of whack. Some have always been so; others have risen to the top of this list recently.
Although we look at such things through partisan lenses, at least to some degree, a case can be made that no matter your political persuasion, these dinosaurs do not serve the nation well and should be resolved forthwith. That, of course, will not happen just now, but if the Democrats pull off a big win in the midterms and in 2024, they can get them done, to the nation’s great benefit.
Needless to say, the Republicans will not support any of these, because…. Well, you know. They are who they have become. Doing anything based on good governance as a standard is a benchmark now gone from the Republican party. The rest of us need to move on trying to serve the country.
Here are six such things that pretty well top my list.
Supreme Court Nominations and Tenure
A lot of people consider this too hot to handle. I think it is too hot not to handle. One of the major problems is that the current system of roll the dice means some presidents get no nominees, others get a bunch. This completely politicizes the process, deletes standing for the Court, and creates imbalances that run for years.
The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court, charged by President Biden to look at the Supreme Court is nearly finished with its work. So far, they seem to be leaning heavily toward recommending term limits (noting we are the exception among countries with lifetime upper court tenure) but seem a bit more nervous about increasing the size of the court. We should know in a few weeks what their recommendations are more broadly.
Common sense says put in reasonable term limits, let each Presidential term have one nominee, and get on with a sensible system of staffing and replacements. No other system in the country runs like our Court process, for good reason – it is a mess. Oh, and yes- I am fine with adding three more justices right now to rebalance the unconstitutional injustices (2 of them) inflicted on McConnell and including that 3rd new justice as punishment.
Senatorial Holds on Nominations
This is a quaint old idea that is habitually abused. We have critical positions, many in national security areas, unfilled right now because Senators Cruz and Hawley want to play up to their base and handicap Biden. I am fine with continuing this “courtesy” for a set period – say 30 days – but in perpetuity? No way that makes any sense, for any party.
You have read enough on this one from just about everyone who publishes these days, so no need to go into detail. It is a tool to cripple government. For every time it has been used for some noble purpose, it has been abused dozens of times Mostly it has been used to attack civil rights.
There are some good ideas out there short of killing it off, but we need to do something. The days of either party having over 60 votes in the Senate are likely long gone; the filibuster is assured gridlock forever. Let’s try the version that says one must actually, physically filibuster and after 15-days it only takes 55 votes to kill it. Give it another 15-30 days and it goes to a simple majority. Works for me.
On top of that, note that in recent decades those who use the filibuster to stop desired legislation represent about 50% of the Senate but about 50 MILLION fewer Americans that want to see things done. This is simply too undemocratic to justify continuing.
Issues Stalled in the Courts
Trump loved doing this. Sue everyone for everything and eat up years in the courts. His folks are trying that right now with the January 6 Committee subpoenas. Everyone deserves their day in court, but surely we can devise a designation and process for matters that require timely resolution, require quicker reviews, and faster decisions from the courts. That old phrase “justice delayed is justice denied” rings true far too often.
The Debt Ceiling
Just a reminder that this is not a fundamental constitutional issue. The debt ceiling was invented only 100 years ago and has been largely a political plaything in recent decades. Having this thing does damage to our standing as the world’s leading economic power. Kill this thing. When legislation is passed, costs are incurred then. Having separate votes on whether we intend to pay the debts we already incurred is ludicrous.
The Lack of Infrastructure Investment Planning
My pet rock among key issues. By any standard, the US is well on its way to becoming a second-tier country based on its decaying infrastructure – a self-inflicted wound if there ever was one. Everyone at local and national level likes to punt the bills for this to later inhabitants of their offices.
Taking care of the backlog will be hard and expensive – Biden is trying to get that underway. More will be needed for many years. For the future, a fix is relatively easy and simple to put in place. When an infrastructure project is approved in legislation, mandate that its projected lifecycle cost be calculated, and funds set aside in a special infrastructure trust fund every year. Unlike the Social Security Trust Fund, this one would be off limits to pay for other things. We just need the political will to act like adults.
Sure. A couple of dozen things that just don’t compute in how we choose to run our country and counties come to mind. But enough for one day. We will revisit this subject again in the not too distant future. Would welcome hearing in the Comments section what is on YOUR list and/or your thoughts on this list.
In the meantime, the air is finally starting to get crisp and Fall colors are starting to peak out a bit. Let’s enjoy all that while we can.
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