Hail Gridlock!

Due to the massive membership gains on November 2 by Republicans in the House of Representatives, pundits on both sides of the political aisle predict that there will be legislative gridlock in Washington, regardless of the calls for bipartisanship from the Democrats. Believe it or not, there is a strong case to be made that gridlock is the only acceptable solution to (what many consider) the abuse of Congress' constitutional authority.

Gridlock is offered as a prime example of a dysfunctional government. But with a situation in Washington where two-thirds of the branches of government are controlled by those who brought us ObamaCare, the Stimuli, "Cash for Clunkers," and the manifold other programs that have (and will in the future) run up multi-trillion-dollar debts and have increased our deficits to astronomical levels, can the prospect of legislative gridlock be that distasteful? (Of course, I'm still waiting for the straight-faced, reasoned argument that ObamaCare is an example of constitutional governance at its finest.)

In light of the legislation that has been enacted over the past 22 months by progressive Democrats, a question is raised: Since the early 20th century, has Congress been faithfully executing the powers granted to that body in Article I, Section 8 (AIS8) of the Constitution? A cursory review of this section can make one wonder where certain taxation and regulatory powers came from, as well as the genesis of many governmental entities (like the Departments of Labor, Energy, and Education). To refresh our minds, AIS8 -- the "Powers of Congress" -- contains the following powers:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The actual words in AIS8, coupled with the well-documented original intent of the Framers (as found in the Federalist Papers), are thin gruel, indeed, for congressional progressives who would otherwise seek to twist (and who have twisted for quite some time) the meanings of the so-called welfare and commerce clauses to encompass absolute, nearly limitless legislative powers for Congress over the American people. However, with this undocumented legislative tool in hand, the temptations facing our elected politicians to accumulate massive power, wealth, and vainglory are too seductive and too powerful. And the consequences of such congressional misbehavior for the American people are too dangerous and a real threat to the continued fiscal, social, and geopolitical viability of our nation.

So rather than counting on our representatives to retain their principles or to demonstrate strict constitutional fealty of their own volition, the American people must grasp at any method or situation that will return the Congress to constitutional first principles. If gridlock serves this purpose, then so be it. Because the powers granted to the Congress in AIS8 and in the "Limits on Congress" in Article I, Section 9 resemble a Congress in gridlock more faithfully than they do the de facto workings and machinations of our 21st-century Congress.

In the coming months, if the House Republicans can stiffen their collective spines and keep their pledge to oppose constitutional abuses, we can come to embrace gridlock as a good thing. We can witness firsthand the returning of the Congress to a mission and purpose that mirrors its actual job description in the Constitution. It is often said that familiarity breeds contempt. This is true of habitual abuse as well. Perhaps if the bad habits of the Congress can be interrupted and replaced with gridlock, the welfare of the American people and the United States will be better served, and we will eventually come to feel represented rather than governed.

If as a nation we cannot find our way to elect men and women with high morals, unshakable virtue, and indelible honor to the Congress, then we must settle for the residual effects of man's lesser angels to grind our government to a halt. It isn't pretty, and it creates acrimony, name-calling, and bickering...and in the end, it is exemplified by childish behavior at both ends of the political spectrum. Regardless, if it serves its purpose to restore our government to its constitutional roots, then...

Hail gridlock!

Anthony G.P. Marini is a consultant, engineer, and strict constitutionalist who resides in Massachusetts with his wife and four constitutionalist dogs. He blogs at The Sky's The Limit and can be reached at nolimits@tonymarini.com.
Due to the massive membership gains on November 2 by Republicans in the House of Representatives, pundits on both sides of the political aisle predict that there will be legislative gridlock in Washington, regardless of the calls for bipartisanship from the Democrats. Believe it or not, there is a strong case to be made that gridlock is the only acceptable solution to (what many consider) the abuse of Congress' constitutional authority.

Gridlock is offered as a prime example of a dysfunctional government. But with a situation in Washington where two-thirds of the branches of government are controlled by those who brought us ObamaCare, the Stimuli, "Cash for Clunkers," and the manifold other programs that have (and will in the future) run up multi-trillion-dollar debts and have increased our deficits to astronomical levels, can the prospect of legislative gridlock be that distasteful? (Of course, I'm still waiting for the straight-faced, reasoned argument that ObamaCare is an example of constitutional governance at its finest.)

In light of the legislation that has been enacted over the past 22 months by progressive Democrats, a question is raised: Since the early 20th century, has Congress been faithfully executing the powers granted to that body in Article I, Section 8 (AIS8) of the Constitution? A cursory review of this section can make one wonder where certain taxation and regulatory powers came from, as well as the genesis of many governmental entities (like the Departments of Labor, Energy, and Education). To refresh our minds, AIS8 -- the "Powers of Congress" -- contains the following powers:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The actual words in AIS8, coupled with the well-documented original intent of the Framers (as found in the Federalist Papers), are thin gruel, indeed, for congressional progressives who would otherwise seek to twist (and who have twisted for quite some time) the meanings of the so-called welfare and commerce clauses to encompass absolute, nearly limitless legislative powers for Congress over the American people. However, with this undocumented legislative tool in hand, the temptations facing our elected politicians to accumulate massive power, wealth, and vainglory are too seductive and too powerful. And the consequences of such congressional misbehavior for the American people are too dangerous and a real threat to the continued fiscal, social, and geopolitical viability of our nation.

So rather than counting on our representatives to retain their principles or to demonstrate strict constitutional fealty of their own volition, the American people must grasp at any method or situation that will return the Congress to constitutional first principles. If gridlock serves this purpose, then so be it. Because the powers granted to the Congress in AIS8 and in the "Limits on Congress" in Article I, Section 9 resemble a Congress in gridlock more faithfully than they do the de facto workings and machinations of our 21st-century Congress.

In the coming months, if the House Republicans can stiffen their collective spines and keep their pledge to oppose constitutional abuses, we can come to embrace gridlock as a good thing. We can witness firsthand the returning of the Congress to a mission and purpose that mirrors its actual job description in the Constitution. It is often said that familiarity breeds contempt. This is true of habitual abuse as well. Perhaps if the bad habits of the Congress can be interrupted and replaced with gridlock, the welfare of the American people and the United States will be better served, and we will eventually come to feel represented rather than governed.

If as a nation we cannot find our way to elect men and women with high morals, unshakable virtue, and indelible honor to the Congress, then we must settle for the residual effects of man's lesser angels to grind our government to a halt. It isn't pretty, and it creates acrimony, name-calling, and bickering...and in the end, it is exemplified by childish behavior at both ends of the political spectrum. Regardless, if it serves its purpose to restore our government to its constitutional roots, then...

Hail gridlock!

Anthony G.P. Marini is a consultant, engineer, and strict constitutionalist who resides in Massachusetts with his wife and four constitutionalist dogs. He blogs at The Sky's The Limit and can be reached at nolimits@tonymarini.com.

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