We now have a new president who, in the general expectation, will move to implement the program on which he was elected. Citizens, who take their votes seriously, have a right to expect that Congress will give due consideration to the agenda which our election has produced.
Congress under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or someone like him, is free to follow the precedent set during President Barack Obama's tenure by threatening to limit the new president a one term by strangling his legislative program in the congressional crib, including Supreme Court nominations.
Checks and balances at work?
Not really. A check, yes, but certainly no balance.
Our constitution was meant to protect us against an overweening government while still giving it the tools to serve the nation’s needs. The distribution of power between the executive and legislative branches works when good faith negotiation and compromise animate negotiations between the universally elected president and the particularly elected legislators as they seek to effectuate the common good.
But when rank partisanship is at the wheel rather than in the back seat, the system gridlocks and the common good is badly served.
The Constitution, as it now operates, did not anticipate someone like McConnell who could use the checks given him to prevent any balance except one to his particular liking. We are protected against an executive tyrant, but much less so against a legislative one who is free to muzzle any electoral mandate, no matter how large, other than his own.
To break this partisan-driven gridlock, Congress should be compelled by law to give the president's proposals the serious consideration they deserve. He is, after all, the only officer of our government chosen by all the people. As such, his proposals deserve more than a cursory glance or a partisan proclamation of DOA.
The Preamble to the Constitution says the government was designed to “promote the common good;” it says nothing about fostering partisan causes.
We need to amend the Constitution so that Congress is compelled to accept and act on within a stipulated time — say 90 days — any presidential proposal for legislation or appointment by giving them an up or down vote. Amendments could be permitted but subject to a presidential veto that could not be overridden.
Those who shudder at the election of Donald Trump might object to this proposal. But our system is designed not to suit or stymie this or that individual but to serve the needs of all.
Elections should have consequences, and our presidents should be empowered to give full utterance to the mandate they have been given by “we, the people.” Congress would still have the final word, as our Constitution intended, but the people would also then be fully heard.
Will Sutter of Lexington is a retired foreign service official and novelist.