Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Government Failing the People Symptom of Broken System

“. . . I venture to say that, taken as a whole, the House is sound at heart; nowhere else will you find such a ready appreciation of merit and character, in few gatherings of equal size is there so little jealousy and envy. . . The men who have led the House, whose names have become a splendid tradition to their successors, have gained prominence not through luck or by mere accident. They had ability, at least in some degree; but more than that they have had character.”
—Speaker Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois, (1903–1911)

Mr. Cannon must be rolling over in his grave. I find that the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives has become a hindrance to the functioning of government, and a liability to the American people.

As presiding office of the House of Representatives, the Speaker holds a variety of powers over the House and is the highest-ranking legislative official in the US government. The Constitution does not spell out the political role of the Speaker. Tradition has molded the position into what it is today.  The Speaker in the United States, by tradition, is the head of the majority party in the House of Representatives, outranking the Majority Leader. However, despite having the right to vote, the Speaker usually does not participate in debate and rarely votes.

The Speaker is responsible for ensuring that the House passes legislation supported by the majority party. In pursuing this goal, the Speaker may use his or her power to determine when each bill reaches the floor. They also chair the majority party's steering committee in the House. The Speaker is tasked with pushing through the agenda of the majority party, often at the expense of the minority opposition. As the highest-ranking member of the opposition party (and in effect a de facto Leader of the Opposition), the Speaker is normally the chief public opponent of the President's agenda. In this scenario, the Speaker is known for undercutting the President's agenda by blocking measures by the minority party or rejecting bills by the Senate.

The Speaker's powers and duties extend beyond presiding in the chamber. In particular, the Speaker has great influence over the committee process. The Speaker selects nine of the thirteen members of the powerful Committee on Rules, subject to the approval of the entire majority party. The leadership of the minority party chooses the remaining four members. Furthermore, the Speaker appoints all members of select committees and conference committees. Moreover, when a bill is introduced, the Speaker determines which committee will consider it.

Because joint sessions and joint meetings of Congress are held in the House chamber, the Speaker presides over all such joint sessions and meetings. The Speaker is also responsible for overseeing the officers of the House: the Clerk, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Chief Administrative Officer, and the Chaplain. The Speaker can dismiss any of these officers. The Speaker appoints the House Historian and the General Counsel and, jointly with the Majority and Minority Leaders, appoints the House Inspector General.

This list of duties and the method employed to carry them out is a receipt for governments grinding to a halt. It is also a betrayal of trust to the American people. Even though a Republican should try to advance their cause, they still have to represent the whole of the electorate. A partisan Speaker of the House is incapable of that. The rabble get the Speakers ear, then the Speaker stubbornly tows a line even if it threatens the stability of the entire system.

Given such awesome powers as held by the Speaker of the House, I think we should of learned a lesson from the last few years. That lesson being, a partisan Speaker of the House is a bad idea. We should embrace the notion that our Speaker of the House of Representatives should be strictly non-partisan. The person chosen should renounce all allegiances to any party, and instead focus on the people's business in the House. That should be their over riding concern, the smooth functioning of the House of Representatives. Our nation needs to implement a Westminster Style Speaker of the House.

"Non-partisanship: The Speaker, by convention, severs all ties with his or her political party, as it is considered essential that the Speaker be seen as an impartial presiding officer"
If our nation had a Speaker of the House that were non-partisan, we wouldn't have to suffer threats of government shutdown born of political party infighting. The People of the United States deserve better than that. The people expect better performance from their elected officials. The people are disturbed by the wasting of billions of tax payer dollars on setting up programs, only to disband the program later because of political rivalry. The people are the ones most effected by government malfunction. The people are the ones the elected must answer to. The people see a major flaw in our political system, and desire to remedy that flaw. It would take nothing less than a Constitutional Amendment to get the job done. Still it must be done.

Check out these clips of the House of Commons Speaker:

This guy disavowed allegiance to any political party when he took up the gavel.

Now check out some of our own Speakers antics:

After viewing that last one, it should be apparent as to how the roll of Speaker has gotten out of hand. Given that "The Constitution does not spell out the political role of the Speaker.", it has become time to enact rules to govern the political roll of the Speaker. The way things are now, people have made tribal/customary rules, and make them with an eye to gaining an advantage of course. Like children playing a game, and making rules as they go. Every time the child invents a rule trying to gain an upper hand. Let us People of the United States have a Speaker of the House that supports the function of government on behalf of the American People who have entrusted that power. A Speaker who's roll is a non-partisan roll, devoted to getting the business of the people done expeditiously.