For most of its history, Congress has been an important check on presidential power.
President Franklin Roosevelt’s fellow Democrats, for instance, killed his plan to expand the Supreme Court to pack it with his own yes men. And a band of Republicans made clear to President Richard Nixon that he would be impeached for his Watergate transgressions if he did not resign.
The current GOP-controlled House and Senate, however, have been little but obedient lap dogs to President Donald Trump. This would be troubling under any circumstances. But it is especially so now with a president who careens from gross incompetence to troubling executive overreach; who tolerates, even encourages, corrupt behavior; and who tries to govern through a toxic mix of self-adulation, divisive rhetoric, fearmongering, outright lies and juvenile name-calling.
It is not healthy for the country, or the institution, when Congress abets Trump’s politicized attacks on his own Justice Department and on the free press. Nor is it healthy when Trump’s fellow Republicans remain mostly silent when he incites hate groups with incendiary language, or when he veers erratically from threatening nuclear war with North Korea to declaring himself “in love” with dictator Kim Jong Un.
Now comes the first general election of the Trump era, which carries with it a crucial opportunity to restore the basic oversight functions of Congress.
The institution needs men and women of good faith who will stand against presidential overreach. It needs lawmakers who will unite, not divide; who do not regard compromise as a dirty word; and who will stand up for what is a co-equal branch of government with the presidency.
The stakes in this year’s elections, which Trump himself describes as a referendum on his presidency, could not be higher. Yet typically, only about 40 percent of the eligible population participates in midterm elections, compared with an estimated 60 percent during presidential years. That number dropped to just 36.7 percent in in 2014, setting a record low for midterms going back to World War II.
Those who don’t vote shouldn’t complain about the outcome.
Tuesday’s results will determine the degree to which Trump’s baser instincts will be reined in and the degree to which the rule of law will once again be an important principle in our nation’s capital.
In the weeks and months ahead, special counsel Robert Mueller is likely to provide more clarity on a number of issues, among them Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Trump’s longstanding business ties with Russia, and whether his firing of James Comey, the FBI director who was overseeing the Russia inquiry, constituted obstruction of justice.
The next Congress – indeed, this one – needs to make clear that it will not tolerate efforts to end or limit Mueller’s inquiry, either through some kind of chain-reaction firing at the Justice Department or by Trump’s ongoing drumbeat of public criticisms.
The current House and Senate have failed miserably at their duty to conduct oversight hearings and to put guardrails around a reckless president whose own aides have questioned his fitness. It is time to elect a Congress that will do better.
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This article provided by NewsEdge.