Finally, with the release on Thursday of the Congressional Republicans’ “Pledge to America” we have a document we can use to hold the Party accountable in 2012 and 2014. The next step is to require all Republican candidates to sign the pledge and refuse to vote for those who do not. While far from perfect, the Pledge is at least a first step in returning America to the Constitutional Republic envisioned by the Founders. It is also a document that Congress is going to find it politically difficult to follow.
The most important part of the pledge will also be the most difficult to keep. That is their pledge to “honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment.” That is going to be particularly difficult since other parts are in conflict with it. Along the same lines they also pledge that, “We will require that every bill contain a citation of Constitutional authority”. Congressman John Shaddag has been using this as a campaign gimmick for over a decade. Let’s see if they finally follow through with it.
They also pledge to “repeal and replace” the government takeover of health care. Some of their proposals are sorely needed; for example, the promise of “tort reform”. I have not studied this part of the plan, however, I cannot immediately think of a part of the Constitution that gives to Congress that authority. It will be interesting to see what they come up with on that. The “repeal” part is a “gimmie”, since there is no constitutional authority given Congress over health care to begin with. It’s the “replace” part that is going to give them difficulty. Since health care is not one of the enumerated powers given to Congress by the Constitution it is going to be difficult to find “Constitutional authority”, for any of the reform legislation they propose.
The one place where they are on solid constitutional ground is in the pledge to “allow individuals to buy health care coverage outside the state in which they live”. This they can legitimately do under the interstate commerce clause, whose original purpose was to insure free trade between the states. However, if they attempt to expand the commerce clause to allow Congress to regulate other parts of our health care system they will be violating their pledge to honor the “original intent” of the Founders.
Another part of their promised health care reform is their promise to ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions. This involves telling private insurance companies who they must insure and under what conditions. Although, there is ample moral justification for such a requirement there is nothing in the Constitution that gives Congress that power. In the same paragraph they explain that they will “expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage;” another laudable goal with no Constitutional authority to implement.
Still another pledge they make is, “we will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with ’must pass’ legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time”. This sounds good, but it would sound better if they passed a rule only allowing single issue legislation, period. The practice of “bundling” legislation should be stopped, no more “comprehensive” legislation on any issue.
In general, the pledges relating to national security and border protection are good. However, no mention is made of illegal immigration, and there is no pledge regarding amnesty. A lot of the sections are written in generalities, with plenty of “wiggle room“. As we said, this is only a first step. Obviously they have heard the American people and have hastily drawn a plan to protect their jobs by telling us what they think we want to hear. If history repeats itself, many will go through the motions and then say they “tried” but simply did not have the votes to get particular items of the pledge passed.
One area that is conspicuously missing is what to do about eliminating some of the unconstitutional bureaucracies such as the Department of Education, National Endowment of the Arts, Bureau of Energy, HUD, and the myriad of alphabet soup departments that continue to clog up the machinery of government, and infringe on the liberties of the people.
In spite of the pledge’s shortcomings, if we just succeed in forcing them to adhere to the pledge they made concerning the Constitution, we will go a long way toward restoring constitutional government. Although, that pledge is simply a different way of repeating their oath of office, and had they honored that to begin with, we would not have the problems we are forced to deal with today.