Op-ed: Congress puts Trump ahead of its constitutional duty

Today’s debate on health care would have left the framers dumbstruck. Utahns should expect more from their representatives and hold them accountable to do their job. Rather than asserting its separate but equal authority in our government, the House and Senate have bent their procedures and judgment to deliver to President Trump a campaign promise, without exercising their constitutional duty to serve the national interest.

Say what you want about Obamacare, it is the law of the land, and so any repeal or revision will be complex and impact millions. Yet the House measure, passed so quickly and with no hearings, was a political train wreck that raised anxiety with those who depend upon the current law for health insurance and introduced tremendous uncertainly into an already difficult individual insurance market.

What is needed is serious affirmation of the congressional rule of order; any legislation of this magnitude must be subjected to fair and open hearings and full debate.

That is not what is unfolding before us in the U.S. Senate this week. Clearly the leadership wanted to protect its proposal from “the swamp,” the swarm of special interests that will now pounce as the details of the legislation become public. It is pretty clear to all, however, that the bill produced has not been fully vetted by the legislative process, as it should be, and thus will lack (as did the original Obamacare plan) a broad political consensus of support. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

It’s fine to have a proposal developed by a working group of members, however it appears the Senate leadership — and all the Republican members — are aiming to bring the legislation to the floor and pass it quickly with their majority vote. No hearings. Little time for true examination and debate. Not enough time to allow the will of the people to be heard.

Ironic that Congress invested millions of dollars and hours of hearings investigating Benghazi, yet when it comes to a fundamental function of government and billions of tax dollars, nothing. As a result, the very institution upon which we depend for our self-government is weakened further and public trust in the Senate, for all its flaws, is further diminished.

The separation of powers is a critical, defining reason why the American model of government has such stability and longevity. The framers knew the impact of unchecked power and designed the Senate as “a necessary fence.” To see current leaders (and in the past Democratic leaders — there are no heroes here) abdicate their responsibility to uphold the constitutional duty of senators to legislate is a repudiation of the very document which so many believe enshrines sacred principles of government.

There must be debate and examination of different points of view. That is not what is happening in Washington today. We can only hope at some point those in the Senate would stop the current madness before it’s too late and assert the chamber’s defined independence and power to deliberate. For Utah’s Senators to yield to current political whims at the expense of the fundamentals of our Constitution is a disappointment, because in their hearts and souls they know better.

Raised in Utah, Scott Williams is founder of ForeFront Strategies, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm. From 1989-1994 he served as press secretary to Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga.