If You Can’t Follow the Rules – Change the Rules

Archived Messages From the President

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December 05, 2013

The checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution have done a pretty good job over the years of preserving and protecting the majority rights and the minority rights of both our population and the governing bodies of our government. The Constitution has successfully maintained a delicate balance of power between the Judicial, Executive and Legislative branches of our government, and by the genius of its design, has allowed us to correct grievous errors of civil rights. It has also allowed itself to be changed to facilitate everything from long overdue suffrage for women and young people, as well as how pay raises are administered to those who represent us in Washington. Though seemingly slow and cumbersome the Constitution continues to work.

I am certainly not a constitutional scholar but what I see happening today scares me. I fear that this intricate balance of power is being eroded by those in Washington who are willing to either give up the power that the constitution has granted them or even worse use a thin majority to eliminate an important check that is needed to preserve the rights of the minority.

The latest in an alarming series of erosions to this balance is the Senate Majority Leader’s decision to invoke the “nuclear” option to eliminate the filibuster of Presidential nominations. It is the use of a procedural method to override a basic check on a branch of our government and threatens the balance of power that is part of the foundation of our country. The scary thing is that this is not the first threat to this balance in recent history.

I’ve written before about the method of eliminating the long term care provision, the CLASS act, from the Affordable Care Act (the ACA often called Obamacare). While I didn’t like the CLASS act and considered it unsustainable I hated the fact that by administrative decree Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebilius eliminated it from a program that had become the law of the land. No amendment to change the law, no consideration by the Legislative branch, no review by the Judiciary – just an administrative decree to cancel that portion of the law. No check and balance is visible on that action.

I’ve also written about the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that was also enacted as a part of the ACA. This Medicare rationing board has power over the price and availability of goods and services to older Americans yet it is above both Legislative influence and Judicial review and now the last semblance of control over this rationing board, the ability of the Senate to approve the President’s nominees, has been virtually eliminated by the “nuclear” option. It is sad and troubling that the people we elected to govern gave up that right when they voted for a law that contained this terrible board and then refused to act when they had the chance, through the regular Legislative process, to correct the problem and finally voted to give up the last bit of control they had over the board’s nominees. We have started down a path that is leading us away from the Constitution.

Recently we’ve seen the President grant waivers of certain provisions of the ACA to some entities, extend the deadlines of other requirements and change, through the careful definition of regulations, other parts of the law. Not through Legislative amendment or the normal processes used when other complicated laws have been implemented, but by Presidential fiat. This is what happens when you pass a totally partisan bill that has remained extremely unpopular with the American people since its passage. It seems that in the end, this huge complicated bill, which we “needed to pass to find out what was in it,” was not the real problem. The real problem was and is that what Congress actually passed boils down to a very simple one sentence health reform bill that might just as well read: “This bill authorizes the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to change our country’s health care system in any way and at any time they want.”

The balance of power between our branches of government is being eroded, not by changes in our Constitution but by the willingness of some of our elected officials to relinquish their duty to govern and by the use of parliamentary procedures to abolish the filibuster which unfairly punishes the minority. This “nuclear” option also weakens the quality and diversity of those appointed to Judicial positions, which then ultimately limits the Judiciary’s’ check on the other two branches. What happens to our faith that the promises made in older laws will be kept when we see recent laws changed on Presidential whim and basic governing processes altered for political advantage? RetireSafe has always said that our government should keep its promises. The checks and balances that guarantee that those promises will be kept are being eroded and it worries me and should worry everyone – especially those older Americans who are counting on our government to keep all of its promise