Editor’s Note: Bob Morrison coauthored this column.
Our esteemed Family Research Council (FRC) colleague, Dr. David Prentice has lectured around the world on the wonders of ethical stem cell research. Dr. Prentice has catalogued the more than 70 treatments that bring needed relief to more than 60,000 persons a year. The great thing about Adult Stem Cells is that they are most often taken from the patient’s own body, thus overcoming the problem of rejection by the patient’s immune system.
Dr. Prentice’s pioneering efforts got us thinking: Does the Body Politic also have mechanisms within our ancient Constitution designed to cure our partisan illnesses? Is it possible that the Founding Fathers anticipated the current seemingly intractable clash of political ambition and gave us a way out?
Speaker John Boehner has gone into federal court seeking a ruling that would compel the president of the United States to abide by his oath of office. The speaker has said that he “disagrees” with the calls of some advocating impeachment of the president. As long as he holds the speaker’s gavel, he can effectively take that option off the table.
President Obama is required by the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Every day, President Obama is violating his oath. So Speaker Boehner is asking the judiciary to act as referee in this contest.
It may be that there is yet another way to compel the president to do his duty. The Constitution gives the legislature “the power of the purse.” This means that if both branches of the legislature agree on a series of Appropriations Bills, they can provide money to keep the government functioning and still take away the money for such things as implementing the Obamacare individual mandate.
Won’t the president simply veto such bills? Won’t he claim that his opponents are “closing down the government?” That is exactly what happened in 1995, when Speaker Newt Gingrich boasted of having closed down the government. In truth, both the House and the Senate in those days provided the money to keep the government running. It was President Bill Clinton who vetoed those Continuing Resolutions (CRs) that would have kept the government functioning. Then, as was typical of him, Clinton pointed his finger at Capitol Hill and blamed his political opponents for shutting down the government.
The public opinion polls soon forced the legislative branch to give way. But as we look to 2015, there may be a way of using the Constitution’s own provisions to heal the partisan divisions and still take a stand for principle.
We need an Appropriations Pledge for candidates this fall. We need to see members of all parties commit themselves to their voters to pass and send to the White House a series of Appropriations Bills. These bills will keep the government functioning.
Instead of wrapping all appropriations into one of these huge, unwieldy CRs, we need to return to regular order and pass one after another of the bills required to fund various departments of our federal government.
Then, we need to use a constitutionalist majority to promise voters they will get the same delays and exemptions from Obamacare’s individual mandate that this president has given to congressional staffers, to his labor union supporters, and to his pet corporate backers.
More than simply pledge to do this, we need a constitutionalist majority on Capitol Hill that will pass these Appropriations Bills through both houses, sign and engross these bills, and then send them in a motorcade down Pennsylvania Avenue from Congress to the White House.
When these Appropriations Parades reach the White House gates, we will need the Speaker and the President pro Tem of the Senate to formally present these bills to the executive branch for signature.
With 10 of these Appropriations Parades providing all the funds necessary to keep the U.S. Government running, we can emphasize again and again and again thatonly you, Mr. President, can keep this government from shutting down. Our elected representatives can say: We call upon you, Sir, to sign these bills.
We should have our elected lawmakers speak respectfully to the chief executive and urge him to sign the Appropriations Bills that alone can resolve the crisis we see in Washington.
Thus, the American people will be able properly to assess who is responsible for any shutdowns, or any gridlock. The “consent of the governed” is essential for any free republic. To be effective, that consent must be an informed consent. We cannot rely on a hopelessly biased media to report accurately who is responsible for a stalemate.
But even that biased media will have a hard time ignoring a Parade of Appropriations Bills from Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue to the very gates of the White House.
In this fashion, we may resolve the continuing crises of Continuing Resolutions. They are oddly named, if you think about it, because they are actually continuing the un-resolution
of our difficulties. These CRs merely kick the can down the road.
We need a new idea. We need a return to Regular Order, a re-establishment of the proper system of Checks and Balances that the Framers of our Constitution so wisely provided. This can be a way for the Body Politic to heal itself.
We Americans are a famously practical people. When we see a machine that isn’t working properly, we often say: Check out the owner’s manual. Well, this government belongs to We the People. And the Constitution is our owner’s manual.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union, and on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.