The Power of the Veto
Individual States no longer can rely on their elected Senators to represent for the will of the State that elected them. The Senatorial practice of putting allegiance to their Party above their allegiance to their State has become increasingly prevalent. This is evidenced most notably in the often discussed Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010 and was subsequently challenged in federal court when a majority of States sought to overturn portions of the Act. The challenge was negated when the Supreme Court ruled that the questioned portions of the act could be interpreted as taxes. This history is well known. A list of which states filed lawsuits, and how their senators voted is contained in a prior article "The Repeal Amendment OR Repeal the Amendment?"
The part that is often overlooked about the history of the Affordable Care Act is that there is something fundamentally wrong with how our laws are made when a majority of States object to the laws their Senators have passed. Worse is that the Supreme Court, by act if not by words, upheld the notion of purely partisan politics as a means to create laws for our nation.
You might be asking “What is wrong with that?”
Please note here that the author has no objections to providing affordable health care for our people. The objection is to partisan politics, and how the rush to implement on a partisan basis sometimes fails to heed the voices of practical and sensible governance. This is not an article against Healthcare for our people.
We currently have two dominant parties in American politics, the Democrats and the Republicans. It has become something of a tradition for us to periodically switch which party is elected to power. First the Democrats rule, then the Republicans rule. Both sides use a variety of tactics to inhibit the other from being able to do the things necessary to run the country. In practice, our nation has become bipolar, and hence dysfunctional. How we present ourselves to the world changes from administration to administration as the parties switch power. How we present the federal face to the people of America also changes. This occurs because partisan politics dominates the day-to-day workings of the federal government.
States Representation is a Sanity Check on the Federal Government
During the Obama administration, there was much discussion of putting forth an effort to attempt to repeal the seventeenth amendment of our constitution. For those who do not know, the seventeenth amendment says: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for a period of six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.”
The prior notion was that Senators represented for their States legislatures. States legislatures are typically composed of people experienced with the efforts involved in enacting, policing, and enforcing laws within their State. They develop a sense of what will work, and what will not work when it comes to creating enforceable laws that are of benefit (and not burden) to the people of their States. Prior to the seventeenth Amendment, this was slow - the dominant form of transportation was largely still by horse and carriage, and communication was still by letter or telegraph.
Prior to the seventeenth Amendment, Senators were selected by a method of choosing within each State. Additionally, States supposedly had the right to instruct their senator on how to vote with respect to laws brought before the Senate. In practice, this provided a sanity check on what sort of laws got passed by our federal government, and served as one of the checks on federal power in our overall government system. That check relied on Senators faithfully representing for their State, or owing allegiance to their State.
With the seventeenth amendment this encouragement to represent for experienced governance no longer need to be honored by our Senators. The sanity check on what became law was no longer required. The bipolar effect of a two party system was allowed to grow.
Discussion on the seventeenth Amendment is online (search for Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution). Seven states did not ratify the original amendment. Two States became States after the amendment was approved. With the recent discussions of repeal, one State has called for offering an amendment in Congress to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment. (Utah … March 2, 2016)
U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 7, Second Paragraph:
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
Checks and Balances
The powers of the President are few, but are rather powerful. One of those is the power to select advisor to the President, usually Cabinet members. The Senate has the power to approve presidential selections, or to not approve, or to even delay. Under a fully partisan system, the Senators do not have to answer to the States on whether to approve or disapprove anyone nominated to a position by the President. They can that solely on a partisan basis.
Checks and balances are wonderful things.
The Senate has the power to make laws. They do not have to answer to the States when they make those laws, they can make laws solely on a partisan basis. Recent history suggests, that in times of stress, Senators will show allegiance to their party rather than their State. Of course, any law passed by Congress is subject to Presidential approval, or if the President feels it is warranted, a Presidential Veto.
Checks and balances are wonderful things.
Why This Article is Titled “Power of the Veto"
On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated the forty-fifth President of the United States. He has nominated folks for Cabinet level positions, and has encountered persistent resistance from the Senate. He has indicated on multiple occasions that he is in favor of States rights. What if he begins to exercise the power of the veto? Is there some reason he cannot reach out to the various States government to find out whether they have objections to any law he regards as contentious? Can he not do a simple poll of the States to find out where they really stand on a law prior to it being passed into federal law? Can he choose to honor their request that it remain a State level matter, and honor their request for the federal system to not be involved?
Even better, can he not reach out to the States with the simple question: “Is your State legislature comfortable with how they are being represented with respect to the creation of law at the federal level?”
After all, if worse comes to worse, and we once again find ourselves in a situation where Senators failed to represent for their States, he could always tell the Senate “If you had done your job, this law would not be vetoed.”
Will We See?
Will we see a future where the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed and replaced by the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA)?
Will we see the repeal of the 17th Amendment and the restoration of States representation at the federal level?
Will we seen an American epiphany - where the insanity of bipolar partisan politics is mitigated by the revived sanity check of States representation?