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The Enabler-In-Chief Is Gone

by Marvan Buren (Principles: Politics is a contact sport) - 5 month ago

For six long years, President Barrack Obama allowed Congress to completely abdicate its Constitutional responsibilities. President Donald J. Trump is having none of it.

Forget for the moment whether you see Donald Trump as the best President ever, or the worst. Set aside whether you think he is trying to help ordinary Americans or just looking out for himself. Don’t even consider the questions of his competence or mental health.

Focus instead on the gauntlet he has laid down to Congress on immigration, on health care, and on Iran.  The recent "repeal and replace" debacle has given Trump a front row seat to the fact that our Congress has stopped functioning in the way intended by the Constitution. However, unlike Obama, Trump is willing to call them on it. By forcing Congress to deal with important and controversial issues, Trump is doing no less than testing whether or not our Constitution is still relevant.    

Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution is 18 paragraphs long and each of those paragraphs lists one or more of the powers vested solely in the Congress. Levying taxes, incurring and paying debts, regulating commerce, naturalization of new citizens, building and maintaining roads, staffing and empowering lower courts, promoting science, declaring war, and raising armies are just a few of those powers. These powers were vested in a representative Congress because the framers of the Constitution were afraid of the powers that a would-be tyrant could accumulate as President.

But as the decades and centuries passed, Congress relinquished more and more of those powers to the President. Conservatives tend to blame “imperial” Presidents for usurping the powers of Congress but the reality is the opposite. As members of Congress began to realize that they would be held accountable by the voters for the votes they cast, they came to the conclusion that it was in their own best interest to vote on as few things as possible. Much better to let the President make the decisions and take the heat.

When the Tea Party swept to power in 2010, it was the culmination of this trend. Their belief, perhaps heartfelt but certainly self-serving, was that government is the problem and needs to get out of the way. In a closely divided Congress, this determined minority, using its strategic alliance with the religious right, has been able to effectively assume veto powers over anything Congress might do. 

As a result, during the last 6 years of Obama’s Presidency, Congress became an obstruction machine. They refused to pass badly needed immigration reform. On health care, rather than trying to fix weaknesses in the ACA, they uselessly voted more than 50 times to repeal it. They refused to update the 40 year old clean air act, looked the other way while our disastrous 60 year old Cuban policy stayed in place, and didn’t lift a finger as our roads and bridges crumbled. At one point they shut down the government and even came within a few hours of defaulting on our national debt.

Obama’s reaction was encapsulated in his often repeated statement “If Congress won’t act, I will.”  He had his White House lawyers search for ways which gave him the power to unilaterally  patch health care, address immigration issues, open relations with Cuba, and update environmental rules. It was all very understandable and his supporters cheered each of his moves. However, by doing what Congress would not do, Obama essentially acted as the “Enabler-in-chief.” He allowed Congress to skate by, do nothing, and escape all consequences. In fact, it was Obama and his Democrats who were punished by the voters.

Regardless of his motivations, President Trump is putting a stop to this. He spent his first 9 months waiting in vane for Congress to act on health care. Their failure made it crystal clear that Congress would never act unless they were forced to do so. And so, Trump ended DACA, stopped paying subsidies to health insurance companies and decertified the Iran Deal. Each time he pointed at Congress and said “Fixing this is your job, not mine.” Trump is staking his Presidency, and the future of the country, on the bet that the Constitution is still viable and that Congress really can legislate.

If Congress gets its act together, the next few months could well see a flurry of legislation improving our health insurance system, reforming our immigration system, creating a better tax code, and allocating funds to repair our infrastructure. If Congress fails, our health insurance system will be in ruins, we will witness heartwrenching scenes of productive patriotic young people being deported, our deficit will explode, and on the foreign policy side, an Iran unfettered by any restrictions, will once again be racing toward the development of nuclear weapons.

Like it or not, Congress is now on the hot seat. Time and again Obama let them off the hook. Trump has neither the inclination, nor the ability, to do the same. Is the U.S. Constitution still viable? We may know very soon. 

Comments and Responses (3)

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By  Jayef Kennedy - 6 month ago
In your never-ending quest to legitimize Donald Trump, you make the assumption that President Obama had a choice. You hint that Obama could have done what Trump is doing - to bring the country to the brink of disaster and then demand that Congress fix it. Well it doesn't work that way. The Republicans in Congress would have been more than happy to let the country fall off the cliff as long as Obama could be blamed. Trump has two advantages that Obama didn't have. First, his Republican Party will take full blame if things go bad so they are motivated to do their job. Second, the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, really do care about this country and will step up if necessary.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Donald Trump was elected President. He doesn't need any help from me to be legitimate. One of the reasons he was elected is because people like you take the position that Republicans don't care about the country. Believe it or not, many people find that position to be insulting. We'll never really know if things would have turned out better if Obama had not played the role of Enabler but on many issues, he made the miscalculation that if he did what was popular, the Democrats would benefit. Instead, he and his party were accurately attacked for trying to concentrate too much power in the Presidency. My view is that if he had made more of an effort to make deals with Republicans and to go over their heads to the people if they refused, it would have been better for the Democratic Party and for the country.
Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Cool Calvin - 6 month ago
I just read my friend Jayef's comment and I'm celebrating because we finally agree on something. President Trump has, as usual, brilliantly taken advantage of the situation to help our country. I never speak ill of anyone so I certainly don't want to get on board with criticizing our esteemed former President but as Jayef points out, thanks to Trump's actions, the two parties are now going to work together in Congress to get something done. As Candidate Trump said many times, we're going to win so much we're going to get tired of winning.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Ever think of mass marketing those rose colored glasses you wear? I think you could make a lot of money and probably make a lot of people much happier. To say that it was Trump's plan to bring Congress together is a bridge too far for me.
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 6 month ago
Trump is working for the American people and he is takingback all he can that obama was still trying to give away WHEN HIS TIME FINALLY ended and we were rid of him! God bless and help Trump!
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is neither relevant nor interesting. (Comment will be removed)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : I'll go along with the idea that Trump needs all the help he can get.