more idealistic, impractical ranting
Observing the bloody fray that is U.S. health care reform, Andrew is about as fed up as I am: “the way we write legislation is stupid,” he notes.
I couldn’t agree more. And tonight, it seems that the only means I have to make myself feel better about this smoking train wreck that is our government is to re-imagine it a little bit.
Since the American people already expect a clear legislative agenda from their presidential candidates, let’s go ahead and let the president drive the legislative process, and restructure the rest of the government to complement that approach:
- The chief executive forms committees of aides and invited experts in fields relevant to the legislative agenda, and the committees draft bills to advance that agenda, in clear accordance with the campaign issues that the American people paid attention to and voted on.
- Turn the entire Legislative Branch into something new: call it the Representative Branch, maybe. Keep this branch ideologically balanced: one representative per state from each major party (define a “major party” as, say, one that can claim something like 10% of registered voters in all 50 states). The representatives lobby the president’s legislative committees to help ensure sure the interests of their constituents are being heard, and communicate with these constituents about what’s taking shape in the legislation. (It goes without saying, of course, that any draft legislation should be available to the public at the very earliest stages and offer opportunities for comment as well.) Allow a two-thirds majority of the representatives to torpedo a draft bill as something that’s not truly in the interest of the American public.
- Expand the role of the Supreme Court: if the Representative Branch can’t get the votes to reject a bill, it goes to the Supreme Court for a Constitutionality Review. Either a bill pass this review and becomes law, or it goes back to the President’s legislative committees. The Court could still hear cases where the Constitutionality of existing laws is challenged, but review of new legislation would become its essential function. (Noted: Presidential appointment of Supreme Court Justices will probably need to change under this model).
Today, we have a situation where the desired direction for the country is pretty clearly expressed in the presidential elections, but then Congress turns everything to shit by either starting off with legislation that does really not jibe with that desired direction, or by failing to generate the bipartisan support it needs to pass anything of substance. (We’re actually seeing both of these problems in the current health care debacle.)
In my proposed model above, Congress doesn’t get that opportunity. In the default case, legislation based on campaign promises should sail through the Representative review process, while strictly partisan objections will simply fall by the wayside. If the president’s legislative submissions clearly diverge from the campaign promises, the a bipartisan coalition can be built to prevent their passage, with the added security of a Constitutionality check before any bill becomes law.
Something about that just feels right. I’m batshit crazy, probably, but I’ll need you to tell me why.