In the United States Constitution, our founding fathers wisely provided for two legislative bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Their intended purpose was to have the House take up issues quickly by a mere majority vote and for the Senate to serve as a brake on matters so there could be reflection and deliberation to ensure varying viewpoints and arrive at consensus before taking a vote. Sadly, last week’s passage of the new tax legislation in no way reflects the wisdom of our founding fathers.
The final bill, over 400 pages, was only four hours old, with hand-written changes in the margin, when it was put to a vote. Surely not even a speed reader could have digested the language, much less its effect in that amount of time. No time was permitted for committee hearings or what the cost and benefits might be by making such a sweeping change to our tax code, even when experts told us the bill in over 10 years will explode the deficit by $1.5 trillion and will primarily benefit the wealthy. So the real question is why the rush? Regrettably, the answer is party over country.
Some will say, “Obamacare passed along a straight party vote, so what’s the difference?” The difference is Obamacare, like it or not, was debated and vetted through committees for almost a year before the final bill was put to a vote. The Senate used what is known as regular order by going through the committee process, giving all parties an opportunity to voice their support, opposition or concerns. What we witnessed last week in no way reflects how the Senate is intended to work. Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the rules for the Senate, must surely be spinning in his grave.
Citizens have less trust in their government when they see that the concerns of the wealthiest among us are controlling the reins of government, making decisions that don’t promote the general welfare and public good, but instead favor the few.
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Like all Kansans who have lived through the failed state tax policy of the past six years, all any member of Congress had to do was ask, “How’s that working for you, Kansas?” We would have been happy to describe it as the complete disaster that it is. Members of Congress didn’t need to ask us. All they needed to do was speak with any member of our congressional delegation. It makes this vote that much more insulting for Kansans as our senators knew better and nevertheless voted for a tax policy that has already failed us.
As citizens, it’s our responsibility to ask our congressional members, particularly our senators, why the rush. Was it party over country? As their employer, we deserve an explanation.
Barry Grissom is a former U.S. Attorney for Kansas.