WHO knows what pleasantries the politicians in Washington will visit upon the hoi polloi in 2014? One safe bet is that they'll have a tough time outdoing their dismal performance of the year just ended.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, detailed some of the lowlights, in an op-ed published last week in The Wall Street Journal. Ever the plain-spoken critic, Coburn took to task not just President Barack Obama, who provided plenty of fodder, but Coburn's colleagues in Congress as well.
“In both the executive branch and Congress, Americans witnessed an unwinding of the country's founding principles and of their government's most basic responsibilities,” Coburn wrote. “The rule of law gave way to the rule of rulers.”
Obama was by far the worst offender, with his edicts changing the rules of his signature health care law whenever it suited him. Most notable was his one-year delay in enforcing the law's mandate that employers with more than 50 full-time employees provide health insurance or pay a fine.
Such “unilateral, extralegal” actions are “part of a pattern for this administration,” Coburn noted.
“Immigration and border security laws that might displease certain constituencies if enforced? Ignore the laws. Unhappy that a deep-water drilling moratorium was struck down in court? Reimpose it anyway. Internal Revenue Service agents using the power of the state to harass political enemies? Deny and then stonewall. Unhappy with the pace of Senate confirmations for nominees? Ignore the Constitution and appoint people anyway and claim that the Senate is not in session.”
Obama had company in Congress, in the person of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Having grown weary of the minority party gumming up his progressive plans, Reid forced a vote that limits the ability to use the filibuster to block some appointments. As a result, executive appointments and judicial nominations (other than for spots on the Supreme Court) can be confirmed by a simple majority.
And, Coburn wrote, the Senate has “a majority leader who has appointed himself a Rules Committee of one.”
Reid's dispensing with the supermajority rule was only his latest assault on minority members. He has regularly used Senate rules to end debate and prevent Republicans from offering amendments to bills.
As for his colleagues in the Senate and House, Coburn suggests that if they want to “get serious,” they can debate and approve individual appropriations bills, something he points out hasn't occurred in eight years. Reid didn't pass even one appropriations bill in 2013, “thus shielding vulnerable members of his party from having to make tough votes.”
Coburn laments that laws and rules today “are defined however the holders of power decree, and ‘messaging' is paramount, regardless how far the message is from reality.” But there is some good news to be found, as he sees it. “In 2014, here's a message worth considering: If you don't like the rulers you have, you don't have to keep them.”
We'll add one of our own: As long as Coburn's in office, you can count on more unblinking critiques like this latest one.