Sam Uretsky

Republicans Unready to Govern

If you want a congressional representative whom you can trust, vote for a Democrat – unless you happen to live in New Jersey. According to Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist’s version of a protection racket, 236 representatives and 41 senators have taken the pledge. Almost all are Republicans. The odd man out is Robert Andrews (D-N.J.). The pledge says:

“I, (name here), pledge to the taxpayers of the (x) district of the state of (x) and to the American people that I will:

1) Oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and

2) Oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

We’ve seen the impact of this pledge on the debate over the debt ceiling where Congress approved expenses (it never did pass a budget), and then wouldn’t let the Executive Branch have the money, either by asking for a raise or borrowing the cash.

But, at the time these people entered Congress, they took an oath of office:

“I, ...., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

“That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

According to CBS News, Republicans have proposed 42 amendments to the Constitution, which implies that they really aren’t very happy with it as it currently stands, but as long as they’re prepared to change the Constitution in a manner approved by the Constitution, there’s not much to complain about. On the other hand, in the debate over the debt ceiling, there has been a lot of discussion of the 4th section of then 14th amendment:

This can be edited down to “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorised by law ... shall not be questioned.” This further reduces to “we pay our bills.”

While the 14th Amendment was specific to the Civil War, and hasn’t been tested to any extent in the courts, it’s currently part of the Constitution that our Representatives have sworn (or affirmed) to preserve and protect. Under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, it’s up to Congress to pay debts, but in the debate over the debt ceiling, Republicans were proposing HR 2402, the Prioritize Spending Act of 2011.

This bill set the order in which bills could be paid if the government ran out of money. The implication is that some bills simply wouldn’t be paid.

Put them all together and, aside from the sheer, abject, incredible, unbelievable economic stupidity of the Norquist pledge, and the failure of our elected representatives to understand freshman macroeconomics, the obvious fact is that 236 members of the House of Representatives had “mental reservations” aplenty when they took the Oath of Office.

It seems that these members of congress treated their oath of office as a formality, not to be taken seriously, like the pledge to Americans for Tax Reform.

The Republicans started the current session of Congress with a reading of the (expurgated) Constitution.

It’s a shame nobody told them there would be a quiz afterwards.

Sam Uretsky writes and practices pharmacy on Long Island, N.Y. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2011

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