There are real problems with Congress.
The phrase “passing legislation” is a misnomer when speaking about what Congress does. It has evolved into a place for the two parties to concentrate on a “gotcha” game rather than solve the nation’s problems. Congress was meant to make policy that the executive branch would follow. This is sadly missing from today’s federal legislature.
The current court is being vilified by some because they are holding Congress to a strict interpretation of their Article I responsibilities. The Founders created a system where Congress was the branch where problems should be solved, and the country’s representatives would hash out compromises for the good of all. We have moved far away from being the co-equal branch of the government that Congresses of the 19th and early 20th century were.
As the U.S. became a world power, the idea of an imperial presidency took hold. The president assumed more and more of Congress’s role in drafting policy. Policy became something that only was given the broadest outline in legislation. That left the executive to not only execute but draft policy that should have been part of legislation.
With the ascension of Trump to the presidency, we witnessed the complete breakdown of executive restraint. From obeying laws such as the Hatch Act to conflict-of-interest laws, Congress has been unable to reign in the abuses where the executive has no regard for past norms.
Congress itself is riddled with tribalism. The Founders believed that the body would act as one regardless of factions to exercise a check on executive authority. Congress as an institution has failed miserably to do so preferring party over institution which has led to a decay in constitutional government.
When confronted with the abuses of the Nixon White House in the 1970s, Congress initiated reforms to curb future presidents’ actions. After nearly half century, new reforms need to be enacted in the wake of Trump’s actions that he continues to commit even out of office. Yet it doesn’t seem that Congress is up to this challenge.
Senator Murphy (CT D) has introduced the Promoting Accountability and Security in Transition Act which would clarify and update the rules around preservation of presidential records and what occurs during the transition. While this is a good start, there doesn’t seem to be much hope of this being passed because of the Senate’s arcane rules.
There are also hopes to change the Electoral Count Act of 1887. The breach of the Capitol on January 6th was to stop the count of the Electoral College. If such changes are not done in this session, it probably won’t be updated to prevent another debacle in 2024.
It isn’t only in the realm of politics that Congress is failing the nation. Name the subject, and this legislative body has its head in the sand. The Supreme Court is not inclined to have the president make laws and Congress abrogate their responsibilities to the executive. The Roberts Court (or perhaps call it the Alito Court) will adhere to a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
Congress must reassert itself to revert to what the Founders’ intended. They need to legislate and not pontificate. Either Congress reforms or our nation will not survive.