Reader response: Joe Donnelly hasn’t earned re-election

At his recent signing of the National Defense
Authorization Act President Bush gave written notice
that he would not enforce several of its provisions,
including a ban on using funds for constructing
permanent military bases in Iraq and for acquiring
control over Iraq’s oil money.

The United States Constitution enumerates the duties
and powers of each branch of government. If Congress
passes a bill which the President does not like he can
send it back in hopes that it will be changed or he
can veto it. But if he chooses to sign it, it
immediately becomes law and he is obligated to enforce
it.

In 1998 the Supreme Court ruled a 1996 line-item veto
law, a hallmark of the Republicans’ “Contract With
America” and a favorite of President Clinton, to be
unconstitutional. It said that presidents had never
been given the power to pick and choose which parts of
a law they would enforce. George Bush’s signing
statements today defy that principle and undermine the
authority of Congress.

There is a type of political maneuver which Bush is
fond of using which goes like this. ‘Pass my tax cut.
After all, it’s only temporary.’ Then, six years
later, ‘Make it permanent or you’ll catch hell for the
biggest tax increase in history.’ In another example
he claims the right to join with the government of
Iraq in enacting a “Declaration of Principles for a
Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship”
without the approval of the legislative branch by
insisting that that document is not a treaty. Then,
he turns around and claims that it is a binding treaty
which necessitates his deletion of a portion of the
National Defense Authorization Act with a signing
statement.

A similar rationale for Bush’s signing statements is
sometimes used by members of his administration and
many of his conservative supporters. Presidents, they
say, have long issued signing statements. These are
little more than musings about how they “construe”
portions of a new law and Bush is acting within that
tradition. Not so. Last year the GAO did a study of
the enforcement of laws which Bush had signed under
the cloud of signing statements and found that in a
significantly high number the provisions that he had
announced he would not enforce were, in fact, not
enforced. In practice, then, his pronouncements
serve as a precursor to violations of law. They are a
subversion of the Constitution and an act of contempt
of Congress, both of which easily fall under “high
crimes and misdemeanors.”

Joe Donnelly consistently voices his opposition to
impeachment, claiming that it would jeopardize
bipartisan efforts to pass much needed legislation.
There is important legislation which needs to be
passed, to be sure, but nothing is more important for
a member of Congress than to take seriously his or her
pledge to preserve, protect and defend the
Constitution. Taking impeachment off the table does
not avoid a constitutional crisis; it exacerbates the
existing crisis. Failure to deal with it destroys
Congress’ credibility and threatens to alter
irrevocably our traditional form of government. Joe
is too much occupied with positioning himself for the
next election and too little concerned with his
responsibilities.

I live in the 3rd District, but I do not believe that
Joe has earned progressives’ votes.

–Ted Yost

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