Whatever sense one makes of the midterm elections this year, some people in Congress now claim they have a mandate or at the very least, a bully pulpit from which they can advance their own agendas, no matter their sensibility or lack thereof. As we press into the weekend before our collective, supposed Thanksgiving next Thursday, let’s take a look at who has made vocal declarations for the next several months. One needn’t even examine these carefully before identifying which Congressperson made a traitorous claim.
Just prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamen Netanyahu’s meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, incoming Majority Whip Eric Cantor remarked that House Republicans would serve “as a check against” the White House when it comes to Israel’s interests. Putting aside the very unorthodox meeting in the first place—it’s not exactly protocol for two people at different levels of foreign governments to meet like this—Cantor’s statement amounts to at least a conflict with his oath of office. By definition, if one aligns oneself with a foreign power of one’s own government, one is no longer upholding the US Constitution. Cantor’s office backtracked after this story came out—a story which was made public by this same office—saying that his statement about serving as a check on the Obama Administration was “not about US/Israeli relations.” Less clear is what context his pledge did include.
For his part in helping the economy and increasing government “transparency,” John Boehner, the presumptive next Speaker of the House, has promised to continue flying commercial aircrafts to get around. That flying Delta or Frontier counts as “transparent” shows just much a concept can shift in two years.
Several elected or re-elected officials promised to repeal the health care reform passed earlier this year, including John McCain, Marco Rubio, the House GOP leadership, and many of the Republican Congresspeople and State Governors. Given that 150 GOP-affiliated representatives signed a pledge last July to get health care reform overturned, there may well be a need to stay the course of repeal now. It wouldn’t necessarily be challenging to express a willingness to gut or remove the law because any bill to that effect that crossed the President’s desk would be sure to be vetoed.
Earlier this week a number of incoming Republican Senators wrote a letter to Senate head Harry Reid requesting that no business be performed during any lame duck session this year, before their jobs begin. This letter raised a ruckus—left-leaning analysts called it “unpatriotic”—and was a violation of the US Constitution. Why should the right have all the fun of calling people un-American?
We might not have elected anyone to the Senate who promised to put 1,000 lasers in space, but we will have to give a Senator’s desk to a man who insists, erroneously, that Federal employees make twice as much, on average, as private-sector employees, and that their ranks should be cut by 10 percent. Yes, Rand Paul has declared that he will look at all of the Federal programs out there and decide how to best trim back on the budget. Twenty bucks says he won’t be cutting the defense budget.
Promises, pledges, and stating to the press one’s ideas about what to start with and where to focus after an election are common and even understandable for the newly elected. But many of these sentiments misrepresent the known facts (such as Paul’s assertions about which sector’s staffs earn what), forget history (as in the call for no lame duck session), work against the Constitution, or subvert the oath of office and the basic point of governance—that no matter one’s position on the political spectrum, Americans vote for people to represent them, the people, in a voting body and to consider everyone’s interests when taking up bills for debate. They were not voted in to ignore the practices of governance, nor to presume that their district or state’s electorate trumps the national vote for president from two years ago. At some point, posturing and press releases must fade so that the real work of running the country can begin. The start of the 112th Congress may be rockier for some new arrivals than they realized on election night.