Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America reads: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”
Establishing Congress was the first priority of our Founding Fathers, who understood the importance of protecting America from the perils of an all-powerful chief executive. The brilliant conception of a representative branch of government, empowered to facilitate the concept of self-government, is precisely what makes our system of the people, by the people and thus for the people.
For years, administration after administration has whittled away the powers vested in Congress. There has been little public outrage because this has been as much a product of Congressional abdication of power as it has been presidential usurpation. This is not a case of Congress simply yielding to a president’s desires, but an abandonment of all citizens who cast votes for Representatives and Senators and depend on us to fight for their values.
Freshmen in the 110th Congress know we were sent to Washington, D.C., as a check on the Bush administration. The truth of the matter is that while the Democratic majority in Congress represents a resounding call for change, this is not a question of partisan policy. It’s a question of a systemic breakdown in the system of checks and balances created by the Founding Fathers. Both parties must commit themselves to re- establishing the principles of democracy embodied in the Constitution.
For those of us who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and for American democracy to work, it is not only vital that we exercise powers granted us by the sacred document, but it also is our moral responsibility. Therefore, we are calling on all of our colleagues to join us in celebrating the Constitution and reclaiming the powers granted us therein.
This is neither a simple claim to power nor a rebuff of a particular president. Today, we are proclaiming to all administrations that from this day forward, Congress no longer will be the doormat branch. We will not serve as an ATM to the president, an inert machine that only is called upon when he or she needs to pay the bills.
In today’s world of divisive, partisan politics, it is important to find common ground. One common ground upon which we all can stand is the Constitution. The Constitution does not distinguish between Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. However, the Constitution clearly distinguishes the functions to be performed by each branch of government, and there should be no confusion about that.
Make no mistake, this is not about “W the President,” this is about we the people. The voters bestowed upon us a sacred trust when they hired us, and when we hold up our end of the bargain, we will once again honor the vision of the Founding Fathers. The government of the people and by the people will once more work for the people. On behalf of our constituents, both chambers and both parties will join together “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper,” as outlined in Article 1.
President Bush is not the first, nor will he be the last, chief executive to encroach upon the authority of Congress. On behalf of the people of the United States, and with respect for the vision of our Founding Fathers that “a republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates,” there is a new Congress that believes in old American values.
Freshman Rep. John Yarmuth (D) represents Kentucky’s 3rd district.