In an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, John McCain just made a statement that shouldn’t have had to be made: Congress does not answer to the President. They answer to the American people, period.
“We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people.”
While it is tragic that they didn’t wake up to the “must, where we can, cooperate,” with former President Barack Obama (can you imagine how good things would be now if they had?), this statement needed to be made. Trump seems to believe that he is the “boss of Congress,” bullying, threatening and belittling anyone that won’t get in line with him.
For a “schoolhouse moment“: Congress is one of the three branches of government, designed to keep any one branch from having too much power. The Judiciary (SCOTUS), the legislative (Congress), and the Executive Branch (President) all assure that no other can become dictatorial, each responsible to restrain the others. The President is not the “boss,” or the Chairman of the Board or the CEO — he is the figure head for a three part system. But, anyone with a 4th-grade civics education knows that.
Trump, apparently, does not.
McCain continued,”[w]e must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power.” (Isn’t that the truth?) “And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation,” McCain said.
McCain knows that the American people can see the debacle unfolding in the White House, and will hold Congressmen and women responsible for the results of the flailing administration. While Trump can blindly and incorrectly claim that he has done more than any other president except FDR, Congress is going to be footing the bill in votes when Trump’s failure to do much of anything hits home for voters.
The situation Congress finds itself in is untenable, really. They must govern with a man whom McCain noted, “has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.” This has pushed McCain to call for “a return to regular order.” That is, Congress as a curb on the White House, and as a representative body whose sole purpose is to advocate for what their constituency.
McCain appealed the American’s shared values, invoking Charlottesville, and Heather Hyer, saying most of us share her values, not her murderers. “Our shared values define us more than our differences,” McCain said, “And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.”
He also seemed to dig at Trump’s continued campaign rallying when he should be president-ing. “Our national political campaigns never stop,” McCain said. He questioned the political climate, one that stymied Obama for most of his tenure, of the majority, “imposing their will, with very little concessions” while the minorities only concern is stopping anything from “doing anything important. ” While we know that the GOP was both of those groups, at differing times in Obama’s presidency, it is nice to see it acknowledged.
McCain mentioned the looming threat of a government shutdown, something they pushed us into during Obama’s administration. His solution called for raising caps on priorities for both sides, saying that such a compromise, “that raises spending caps for both sides’ priorities is better than the abject failure that has been our achievement to date.”
Congress and the Supreme court are our last hopes for mitigating the damage that this administration has done and will do over the next three and a half years. And the SCOTUS is likely to be a stacked deck, shortly. Congress needs to listen to McCain because we need them to stop this run-away bully in the White House, as our Founding Fathers put them there to do.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore, Flikr