GOVERNMENT GRIDLOCK

Welcome to two years of gridlock, American style.

For the most part, the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they promulgated our system of government. In particular, establishing three separate branches of government each with the authority to “check” the others was a stroke of genius. This system of “checks and balances” has served us well for some 230 years.

However, in order for the system to function effectively the politicians who run our government must exhibit a certain degree of reasonableness. Yes, many of them have significantly different political, social and economic philosophies, and each wants to cater to their supporters who elected them and (hopefully) will re-elect them. But, at the end of the day, it is normally necessary to compromise to accomplish anything of substance. The real lions of the Congress, such as Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy and Everett Dirksen, to name a few, knew this and practiced it time and again. Fringe players were marginalized, and deals were made that everyone could live with. Otherwise, what we get is not a functioning government, but gridlock.

Gridlock is a situation where neither side is willing to give in, to compromise, to recognize that the other side has valid points. Both sides dig in their heels, harden their positions, disparage the other side, not only politically, but personally as well, the fringe elements of both parties take control, and nothing gets done. My friends, I am afraid that we are now facing such a situation.

It is all well and good that the Dems have won control of the House of Representatives. It is a validation that our system of government works. But, given the current political climate, I fear that rather than producing healthy debate, it will produce gridlock, which will not serve any of us well.

Already, there are ominous signs that the Dems will be focusing on investigating President Trump rather than governing. Some investigation would be healthy and appropriate but not to the level of excess I foresee. I fear many of the Dems in the House and their supporters exhibit an almost irrational hatred of President Trump that affects their judgment (what many Trump supporters call TDS, or “Trump derangement syndrome”). They don’t want to see him succeed in anything, even if it would benefit the country. Moreover, they want to impeach him regardless of whether or not there are legitimate grounds to do so.

I think most people would like to see the Congress address issues such as the government shut-down, immigration and border security, healthcare, our involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, our relations with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, and modernizing our infrastructure, among others.

Instead, I fear the leadership of the House will be focused on investigations, on “getting” Trump. We have already seen indications of this, for example:

1. Maxine Waters, the incoming head of the House Financial Services Committee, has signaled her intention to subpoena President Trump’s tax returns and investigate his business dealings with banks such as Deutsche Bank, which she has characterized as “one of the biggest money laundering banks in the world.”

2. Adam Schiff, incoming head of the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wants to investigate President Trump’s alleged Russia connection. This past October, in an op-ed in the “Washington Post” he asserted that “there are serious and credible allegations the Russians may possess financial leverage over the president.” Moreover, he inferred that Mr. Trump has been “laundering Russian money through his businesses.” He even claimed that there was a “very real prospect” that the Justice Department would indict him “on the day [he] leaves office.” Really? Serious charges, particularly in the absence of proof.

3. Elijah Cummings, incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, figures to be very busy. He told the “Huffington Post” he plans to investigate President Trump’s “many conflicts of interest,” how and why Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn obtained security clearances, to demand documentation on “every child who was separated from their parents at the border and where they are now,” and “corruption within the Trump administration.” He self-righteously proclaimed he “would consider it legislative malpractice not to do it.” TDS?

4. Finally, incoming Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerrold Nadler, announced on “CBS, This Morning” he will be making liberal use of his committee’s subpoena power to provide Congressional “oversight” and “accountability” that, he claims, have been lacking for the past two years. For instance, he intends to investigate President Trump’s decision to fire attorney general, Jeff Sessions, his “nativist policies” that “target refugees, migrants and immigrants already living in the US,” and the Administration’s policy of “rip[ping migrant] children from the arms of their parents.” More TDS?

5. Various House committees have signaled their intent to investigate cabinet members such as Ben Carson for “nepotism and cronyism” and Ryan Zinke for “conflict of interest.”

CONCLUSION

There is nothing new about Congressional oversight and investigations. They are as old as the republic, itself. Even George Washington was investigated by Congress. More recently, we had Congressional investigations of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Bush. As I said, they are an integral part of our system of checks and balances. What I object to is when and if they become so all-consuming that the government grinds to a halt and substantive work does not get done. That will not be beneficial to any of us.

I would urge the House Dems to employ their powers of investigation judiciously. Furthermore, I would urge both parties to seek consensus, not discord. There is much work that needs to be done. Those congresspersons who have one eye on 2020 should not lose sight of 2019.

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