Wednesday, May 25, 2016

rebalancing the Constitution

There are many suggestions to reform America's politics and government. Most are so radical they can never be adopted, especially when they require an amendment to the Constitution. I wouldn't mind a few such amendments myself, such as one to allow Congress to regulate campaign spending.  But they are not likely ever to happen.

Political scientists William Howell and Terry Moe would like to have something closer to a parliamentary system, but their chief recommendation in their new book, Relic: How our Constitution undermines effective government, is to give the president "fast track" powers over bills and nominations. They want the chief executive to be able to propose measures that have to be acted on by Congress, without amendments, within a certain time period. Lawmakers could still vote against such proposals; they just couldn't stall or add their own poison pills.

Their basic complaint is that Congress is too parochial. That's true, but baked into the Constitution by the Framers. I'm worried that the proposal would tip the balance too far in favor of executive power, but I welcome the accountability that comes with demanding votes and not just speeches. So I'd vote for it, given the chance, but I'd want to amend it to limit how often presidents can use  it.