Republican Senators and the Battered Wife Syndrome

What the confirmation of Loretta Lynch really means.

llFor 6 years Barack Obama in word and deed has battered the Constitution and slapped around the Republicans. Abetted by his Luca Brasi, Harry Reid, he has run roughshod over the separation of powers and his own oath to the highest law in the land. He has responded to Republicans’ complaints about his executive arrogance and unlawful policies with naked contempt and partisan calumny. With his minions in the press and the Democratic Party, he has vilified conservatives as racist warmongers and plutocrats indifferent to the plight of the poor. But instead of fighting back in kind, some Republicans have bent over backwards just to get along, a capitulation disguised as “bipartisanship.”

With some exceptions, these Republicans have behaved like a battered wife who reacts to her husband’s violence with desperate attempts to placate him. Thus the Republicans predictably respond to Obama’s depredations with the preemptive cringe before charges of racism or obstructionism. Worse yet, they shrink from using the legitimate powers given to them by the Constitution precisely for the purpose of countering such tyranny. Powers like that of the “purse,” given to the House of Representatives by Article 1.7.1.: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”

The Republicans, however, have failed to use this Constitutional power, even though they have been facing conditions––specifically an overweening executive compromising the division of powers––similar to those the Founders gave the House the power of the purse to check. During the Constitutional debates, George Mason, arguing against the idea that the Senate should originate money bills, said, “Should the [Senate] have the power of giving away the people’s money, they might soon forget the Source from whence they received it. We might soon have an aristocracy.” Benjamin Franklin agreed: “It was always of importance that the people should know who had disposed of their money, and how it was disposed of.” Whether by an oligarchic Senate or an imperial president, the unbalancing of the Constitutional order could be prevented simply by cutting off the government’s money.

That protection of the people from more powerful elites is why James Madison in Federalist 58 argued for giving the House the means for checking the less democratic branches of the government. “The house of representatives can not only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government. They in a word hold the purse, that powerful instrument . . . This power over the purse, may in fact be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

Yet over the last 6 years too many Republicans have shied away from using that Constitutional power even in circumstances for which it was designed, trembling before a biased media’s charge that they are “shutting down the government.” Instead we have been subjected to various funding compromises that kick the entitlement can down the road, and drastically cut military spending, as did the 2013 sequester deal that left entitlements untouched but slashed defense spending. Fearing the hostile media and the Democrats’ dishonest rhetoric, they have abandoned their Constitutional prerogative and handed victory to Obama, who of course has been emboldened to push even further beyond the limits imposed on the office he holds by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold. And the media still blame and vilify Republicans.

Now we have the Senate confirming Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. The Constitution, in Article 2.2.2., gives the Senate the power to confirm or reject candidates for this office. It does not say the president deserves to have his candidate confirmed, as Jeb Bush seems to think. This power is given to the Senate as yet another check on the executive, a way to limit an overreaching president who tries to aggrandize his power through the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. As such, the Senate’s power to give advice and consent is meant to protect the integrity of the Constitution. If the Attorney General is a partisan tool, then the president has more scope for overstepping his Constitutional limits––precisely what has happened during Eric Holder’s tenure as Attorney General.

But having been serially beaten up by this administration, some Republican Senators are now, like a battered wife, going to make him his favorite dinner, hoping that such a solicitous gesture will stop his aggression. But does anyone really believe that Lynch will not be a clone of Holder? She went on record approving the president’s clearly un-Constitutional usurpation of Congress’ law-making power in changing immigration law, not to mention violating his oath of office to execute the laws faithfully. This overreach, of course, follows numerous others, over twenty in the Affordable Care Act alone. But did any Republican grill her about the unilateral revisions of the Affordable Care Act, the still murky details of the Fast and Furious scandal, the failure to investigate vigorously the IRS scandal, Holder’s despicable race-baiting rhetoric over the Ferguson shooting, his racial demagoguery over state voter i.d. laws, and numerous other examples of Holder carrying water for his president and party rather than enforcing the Constitution and U.S. law? Did they press her to say she agreed or disagreed with any of these actions, and if so, why?

You can read the transcript for yourself and see the answer is no, with the exception of a few Senators asking about the executive order granting de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants. But worse yet, by confirming Lynch the Republicans have let Obama game them yet once again, by nominating a black woman mainly as a way of daring the Republicans to grill her or reject her, and so be vulnerable to charges of racism and sexism. Even more important, they should have turned her down just to send a message to Obama and the Democrats that after 6 years of demagoguery, executive overreach, demonstrable contempt for the their branch of government and the Constitution, and Senatorial gridlock engineered by his contemptible minion Harry Reid, the party’s over. Republicans need to take Obama’s 2008 advice: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

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