Congress Is Usually Pretty Happy to Have Its Power Usurped


2014-11-23 – I’m kinda pleased that the House is suing the President. It’s about time that Congress got upset about the usurpation of its power.

Congress is generally pretty happy to have its power usurped. The members get to make grand speeches without ever having to worry about the consequences of its actions. If they act at all. And when they do act, they frequently give the executive branch authority to fill in the blanks, to enforce the law as it sees fit. All they ask in return is a report, which is read into the Congressional Record or not read at all.

Or, when they act and the act is—shall we say—crazy, Congress knows that the Supreme Court will eventually straighten things out. It’s not the way things are supposed to work, but when you have teenagers running Congress, anything can happen. And Mom and Dad will make sure that the kids don’t get into too much trouble.

Of course, while the current lawsuit is a sign that the kids are thinking about growing up, it is clear that they don’t really know yet how that’s going to happen. Historically, lawsuits by one branch of our government against another are dismissed summarily. They are called “political questions” by the courts and they won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. Calling something a “political question” is like Mom and Dad telling you to settle things with you siblings on your own. Don’t come crying to me.

These days, unfortunately, you can’t always count on the courts’ dodging political questions. Sometimes they forget their Mom-and-Dad role and get into the fight. Even if that happens, the current lawsuit isn’t likely to get them anywhere. They are complaining that the executive branch delayed the effective date of Obamacare’s shared responsibility mandate, which penalizes large employers with 50 or more employees if they don’t maintain health coverage. This was supposed to start in 2014, but the administration delayed the start date until 2015.

By the time this case gets anywhere in the courts, it will be 2015. What is a judge going to do about the delay, order a do-over of 2014? Not that I would mind that. 2014 was not a great year for me. Maybe it would come out different if we did it again. Or maybe it would be like the movie Groundhog Day.

After a long train of abuses, spanning decades, is this the best that Republicans can come up with against the Obama administration. They delayed an effective date? Thomas Jefferson would be embarrassed.

Still, it’s a start.

My dog Lefty is insane. He chews the bark off trees. He barks at birds. He tries to chase cars (thankfully, to date, he has always been on leash when this happens). We haven’t been very good at acclimating him to a dog’s life in the big city. We started to when he was a pup, but he had a couple bad experiences with aggressive dogs and we became too protective. Now he’s insane.

Is there a way back. I’ve slowly been loosening the leash. This morning I walked him past a dog park and let him sniff the other dogs and things were pretty calm. By Spring, maybe I’ll be able to let him off the leash in these places. If I can train him to come when he’s called.

Being on leash has been an odd kind of freedom for Lefty. He’s been free to do any kind of crazy thing without any sort of adverse consequence because Kit and I have hold of the leash. He hasn’t had to learn how to manage himself.

It’s the same with Congress, for the better part of a century, they’ve relied on the other branches of Congress to hold the leash.

If they want to grow up and be responsible, filing suit is not the answer. That’s just like asking Mom and Dad to take sides in a dispute with the siblings. What they need to do is start acting as if their decisions have consequences. And when they do, they won’t be able to chase cars anymore.

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