Saturday, July 14, 2007

One Important Power of the House

It is always good to do one's civic duty as an American citizen and sit down to read the Constitutionfrom time to time in order to get a grasp of what the Congress can and cannot do opposed to the Executive Branch. It teaches you the orgins of why the "supreme law of the land" was created. And of course, it humbles you when you read about how the rights were formed in order to give a semblance of freedom and liberty to the people. And, of course, it teaches you that contrary to the current Administration's opinion, that the "Constitution is not just a damn piece of paper." I did just that today. Just a small exercise out of curiousity and for good measure because when you discuss politics with others it helps to revisit the knowledge of all three branches of government and the systems of "checks and balances".

One concept that explicitly fascinated me was the powers of the House of Representatives. And what caused me to think was the power of impeachment. For a member of the House, it is an action not to be taken lightly. From some circles of political thought, it is mainly a political gesture--especially to let the person involved (not just the President) that their behavior was not to be tolerated. Not only that, the said person's behavior ran contrary to the tenets of the Constitutiion in that it jeopardized the stability of the country and the citizens within.

With that being said, it is quite understandable why Rep. Dennis Kucinich had the wherewithal that a lot of his colleagues didn't: to call for impeachment of Vice-President Dick Cheney. It is also understandable why a center was opened on the West Coast in order to examine the tenets of impeachment in terms of the current Administration. For those twenty- percent who "see" nothing wrong with how things are running in Washington, these two acts appear to be empty gestures. But for those of us who care, this begins the cathartic process in which these aspects that have been discussed since the beginning of the Iraq War are finally beginning to be heard by people who matter.

The reason why I have pointed out that Congress had the power not only to impeach the President and Vice-President, but all other members of government (except those within Congress--but that is also dealt with in the Constitution), is the fact that the standing power of the Representatives of the House has been there all along. Instead of the rest of us suffering through constitutional crisis after constitutional crisis, they had the power in their hands to put it to a vote. They don't have to listen to the pundits who say that the "votes aren't there". They don't have to listen to the partisan voices who proclaim that the "American people couldn't handle it." Clearly there are things that need to be investigated. And of course, the supeonas that have been issued of the Executive Branch have gone unanswered. In the midst of frustration, one has to ask, well, what would wake up the Executive Branch in order for them to recognize that the people are being subjected to an imperial rule in which the Constitution is left by the waste side?

The only recourse left is for the House of Representatives is to put it to a vote and make such an offense part of public record so that there is a hearing in the Senate presided over the Chief Justice.

But then again, you say, well with the Supreme Court stacked in the President's favor, well what would this act prove? That the questionable actions taken in the name of the Constitution were being checked out. Not only that, the people who were involved in such a constitutional crisis were to answer for their behavior--as a part of public record. No more dodging. No more ducking supeonas. No more double-speak in the press. Just a simple sit down from the Executive Branch so they could publicly relate before the Senate their interpretation of the Constitutionso the people of the country can hear for the first time how the Executive Branch views and treats the law of the land in the face of all their endeavors. It seems cut and dried, when you look at it.

Of course, in my political discussions on other forums, I have been told that the Executive Branch doesn't have to answer for anything that they've done. It's old hat that the members of such a branch have to take care of things their own way because it is just a matter of course. And after reading such powers of the Congress, isn't it time to put this standard thought of some to a test--especially when it has to deal with the notion that no one man is above the law?

What is relevant to note is that there are issues that need to be explored: 1)the writ of habeas corpus when it comes to those detained at Guantanamo Bay; 2)whether executive signing statements are enough to circumvent basic Constitutional laws; 2)whether the Iraq War was started on Constitutional (whether Congress declared "war" or not); 3)whether certain governmental programs that involved wiretapping and datamining (especially delving into one's endeavors on-line) involved a violation of Fourth Amendment rights; 5) whether America is in a state of emergency due to the War on Terror. These issues, and plenty more need to be put under intense scrutiny by not only Congressional oversight committees; they also have to be examined in terms whether there is grounds for impeachment.

When these things have also been discussed with others on a variety of forums, the basic argument against this is that there was "no wrongdoing". If that is the case, why have there been questions of not only the Democratic side of government, but also from the Republican side? Why are there cases on these grounds that have been sent to the Supreme Court to be heard? Why has the policy speeches been centered on side-stepping these claims in terms of talking points? And most importantly, why has there been such an outcry over these issues in terms of questioning civil liberties opposed to the powers of the state?

These are serious issues that need to be not only debated by Congress, but acted upon for the best interest of the country. If we pretend not to "see" these issues and let our politicians slide in their endeavors with their refusal to cover them, it will set the precedent for future Presidents of the United States (as well as other members of the Executive Branch) to execute what they want as they will without listening to the dissenting voices of not only the citizens but of the Legislative Branch. And if we do just think that it is "all in a day's work", then how better off will we be when these powers are multiplied and used in more nefarious ways against the citizens who voted to put these future politicians in office.

The question here is whether we are truly a beacon of democracy as we say we are, or are we venturing into a more restrictive branch of government in which the needs of the people and our representatives in the Legislative Branch go unheard. One never thinks that things can never get that drastic. However, sometimes there are always small clues that are revealed in such policies that might point to future actions in which restrictions and unchecked governmental powers truly jeopardize our ability to have livelihoods and to receive justice where it is due. That is why impeachment must be considered to finally put these issues in a place where the people can see for themselves how they measure up against constitutional law.

Perhaps, then, in front of the Senate we will get the answers we have waited to hear.

However, these issues must not only be part of Congressional debate--especially in matters of impeachment. This is a national dialogue that must be introduced into the citizenry as well.

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