Has Congress Become Window Dressing?

by James Glaser
April 4, 2006

Back in high school I took a class called Civics. It was a far ranging course that covered everything from American government to how to balance a check book. That course is probably obsolete today, but it was a good class for me, and I even retained a bit of the knowledge gained there.

I remember being taught how it was our Congress in Washington who wrote our federal laws, and that the President needed to sign the finished product to have it become an official law of the country. Both Houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives would pass a bill, then they would have a committee made up of members from both bodies work out the wording so that one bill could be sent to the President with wording accepted by the whole legislature.

The President then could sign the bill and make it the law of the land or he could veto it and send it back to the House and Senate. Even without signing the bill the Legislature could over ride the President and with two thirds of both houses voting for that bill again, it could then become law without the President's signature.

I am sure Washington has made this process way more complicated since I was in high school, but what I have given you is pretty much the gist of it.

Now a days it isn't only Congress that creates the Bills that may become law. Now Lobbyists write bills for whoever pays them and they get a congressman or woman to put their name on it. (somehow campaign money is now involved in this process) Also the White House can submit a bill, maybe they always could, but now you hear about that route more and more.

Vice President Dick Cheney had a secret meetings with energy industry officials and they hammered out an energy bill which became the law of the land (That law was a huge financial gain for the industry) Still today we don't know who was at those meetings nor what was debated... like I said, they were secret meetings.

Right after the 9/11 attack the White house had the Patriot Act all ready to go, and submitted it to Congress. The bill had hundreds of pages of rules, and Congress didn't even have copies of it to read before they voted and passed it on for the President to sign. The only thing they did right was to put in a sunset clause, and this year they had to revote on it. It passed again, but not exactly like the President wanted.

So what did George Bush do? Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe wrote on March 24, 2006, "When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers."

Congress passes a law and sends it on to the President. The President doesn't like the way the law was written, so instead of using his veto power, he just changes the law the way he thinks is best, and to hell with what the Congress passes. Congress sit on its thumbs and the President gets his way.

The Denver Post writes in an editorial of April 2nd, "Maybe being president just goes to your head. Why else is George Bush signing bills into law accompanied by statements suggesting he can ignore certain provisions if he chooses?"

The Post went on with, "Last year, Congress passed a law outlawing the torture of detainees in U.S. custody. Bush signed the legislation even though Congress did not include a provision he wanted giving the president the power to waive the torture ban. But never mind. His signing statement suggested he could bypass the law anyway, prompting Senate Democratic leader Harry Ried to say 'President Bush continues to believe he's above the law and above the Constitution."

When the president of the United States decides that he can pick and choose which laws he will obey, why have a Congress? Especially a Congress like the one we have now that sits there and watches the President do as he wishes.

If George Bush can flaunt our laws any way he wants, we have a dictatorship, and Congress is just window dressing.

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