Friday, February 18, 2011

I'd Like to Recall a Congress...

Published: The Huffington Post 2011.02.18

I am not a lawyer, but I have read the Constitution.

At the end of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution the following phase sits:

"The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."

This clause has stopped people dead in their tracks from forming recall movements against members of Congress. ...there may be a different way to look at this.

First off, impeachment means someone, somehow broke the law. Maybe they sold their influence (we all know Congresspeople would NEVER do that) or took a bribe to land them in hot water with their fellow Congressfolk. It is just amazing that in the 227 years we have been operating under these laws NO ONE has been bounced from the Lower House of Congress by impeachment. It makes me wonder why we are in the mess we are in.

There is a problem with this clause. It has to do with a conflict of interest to have other Congresspeople sit in judgment of their peers. An impeachment process in Congress is coming from the wrong folks - the peers of the offending official. A Congressperson in Utah doesn't care if the Congressperson in Maine is messing up.

It is not a violation of the law to act stupidly, or against the interests of the constituents, therefore impeachment isn't even the right tool. It is actually in the Utah guy's best interest that the Maine guy is incompetent because Mr. Utah can take the lunch money off of Mr. Maine.

But allowing legislators free reign to destroy the government for two years unfettered is downright crazy. We need our government to be more reactive to us.

In other parliamentary systems there can be a 'Vote of No Confidence'. At anytime, you can get enough legislators together to say, "Our government isn't working", they can call for new elections. Given the fact there is a much smaller ratio of representatives to citizens, the representatives are going to hear from the citizens with much greater force and intensity.

But, we don't want to recall the entire Congress, or bring the government down. Just looking to recall Congresspeople - individual Congresspeople. If your Congressperson is stepping out of line you may want to stop them; but there is no facility to do this.

A recall is a bottom up procedure - it is coming from the people who are being served or mis-served by the official.

As we are watching what is going on in Wisconsin, there are provisions in their state law to recall their governor (Link). Unfortunately, the governor has a one year grace period to do real damage to the system there before the will of the people can be heard or exercised. I am hoping there are some really sharp lawyers up there who can open the door to start a recall process for the Governor in a much quicker fashion. The fact there is a process means there is a method of redress.

Redress? Where have I heard that before? The end of the First Amendment ? (Link) - you know the one that is all about worshiping at state sponsored religious schools and having Free Speech if you are on Fox News- yeah - that one.

The quote is:
"and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

A recall petition IS "petition(ing) the Government for a redress of grievances." It is sitting right there in the First Amendment. It is teasing us with its tongue sticking out any waving its hands from its ears singing "nah-nah-na-nah-nah".

Since amendments supersede the document of the Constitution (trumping Article 1, Section 2) it would follow that all we need is an administrative procedure to recall a Congressperson who is acting out of line with the wishes of the public.

I am not proposing that Recall be taken up for any minor thing. A recall petition needs to have a significant number of signatures.

I would take from one of two populations. The first population is from the folks who actually voted in the election that put the targeted official in Congress. (We know who voted in the election, but not how they voted.) If a petition can get a number greater than all the people who voted against the person plus 51% of the people who voted for the person, that would make a successful recall initiation. In other words, more than half of your base has turned against you and is working with your opponents.

The other population would be 60% of the actual registered voters in the district. I realize that number is insanely high when only about 40% of the voters turn out to vote, but the idea is to have a method of redress. If you can wake that many people up to the fact this officeholder is doing a bad job; then yeah, they need to be recalled.

The fact is - the First Amendment gives us the right of redress. It should be up to the courts and executive branches, as part of the system of checks and balances, to create the administrative procedure to make this happen. Or the state legislatures need to put recall procedures into play to recall federal officials who are out of line.

Because the truth is self-evident that the federal legislative branch isn't policing itself and we need a method to exercise the Right of Redress.

No comments: