By Georgie Lawson
Now more than ever the implications of a divided government have come to light. The recent government shutdown exposed the true chaos that is possible with a polarized body of politicians who all feel differently about the issues at hand. Many Americans were relieved when the shutdown ended and thought that this could indicate politicians are finally putting the people’s wishes before their own selfish interests; however, recent events have proven this not to be the case.
The United States operates on a complex but clearly designated power chain. The Constitution lays down which branch of government is entitled to which powers, leaving any uncertainties for the judicial branch to decide. But overall, the intentions of our founding fathers and the people who altered any unfair articles of the Constitution are clear and should be enforced as such today. This means politicians complying with the will of the people, as they did not do during the shutdown. And more recently, this means the Senate confirming presidential appointments, as they once again did not. It now seems that Congress is crossing the fundamental lines of the three branch system, claiming powers to interpretation on behalf of the people they are supposed to represent.
The core concept behind a republic like the United States is to keep the power in the hands of the people and use the elected officials and other government members to carry out these wishes in an organized and civilized manner. Unfortunately, organized and civilized are not words that describe some of these pompous and insistent officeholders. Recently, it seems that certain government officials are taking it upon themselves to insist what is right for the American people, when the population may not agree.
The recent controversy concerns Senate Republicans blocking presidential appointments to circuit courts and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. As prescribed by law, the President makes appointments to these high offices and the Senate confirms them unless there are exceptional circumstances where the qualifications of those being appointed are below the standards necessary to carry out the job. The Senators’ political opinions are not supposed to be a factor in the appointments, as it is primarily an entitled power of the president. However, in this case, it appears that political ideology plays a larger role than is intended for the stubborn politicians.
Just as members of the legislative branch exercised excessive control in the government shutdown, blocking a measure that was voted on by the same body of people those politicians are supposed to represent, certain members of the Senate are now blocking a measure where they have no authority to do so. A group of Republican senators are insisting that the two appointments fall into the category of unqualified appointees. Representative Melvin Watt, a democrat from North Carolina, needed a supermajority of 3/5 to confirm his appointment to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency but fell short on support by a mere four votes. Similarly, Patricia Millett, an accomplished attorney with experience working with the judiciary, was blocked by five votes to her appointment to the Circuit Courts.
Both nominees had experience, making the assertion of the group of Republicans blocking the appointments questionable, as they did not fall under the qualifications of exceptional circumstances. It seems far more likely that once again, politicians were taking matters into their own hands to advance their partisan wishes.
America is a republic, not an oligarchy. Instead of forming exclusive clubs to strike down any measures their enemies put into play like immature children, maybe these politicians should start listening to the law and abiding by their duties as a representative body instead of getting caught up in their own polarized interests.