The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the great need in the United States for all citizens to receive lessons on civics. It seems to this writer that more and more Americans are exhibiting a complete lack of knowledge about the Constitution, what it says, and how the federal government is supposed to work.
The whole world must have seen the circus that took place last week during the Senate hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats were intent on disrupting and delaying the proceedings. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) used his twelve minutes to explain “why confirmation hearings have become so political” and to present “a timely rebuke and an insightful civics lesson.” In his short remarks Sasse “diagnoses the root of the problem as the legislative branch having abdicated its constitutional power to career-minded, unelected bureaucrats within the executive branch agencies” as shown by his following remarks.
The real reason, at the end of the day, that this institution [Congress] punts most of its power to executive branch agencies is because it is a convenient way for legislators to be able to avoid taking responsibility for controversial and often unpopular decisions. If people want to get reelected over and over and over again, and that’s your highest goal – if your biggest long-term thought around here is about your own incumbency – then actually giving away your power is a pretty good strategy. … And so, at the end of the day, a lot of the power delegation that happens from this branch is because the Congress has decided to self-neuter.
The important thing isn’t whether Congress has lame jobs; the important thing is that when Congress neuters itself and gives power to an unaccountable fourth branch of government, it means the people are cut out of the process.
So, ultimately when the Congress is neutered, when the administrative state grows, when there is this fourth branch of government, it makes it harder and harder for the concerns of citizens to be represented and articulated by people, that the people know they have power over. All the power, or almost all the power, right now happens offstage. And that leaves a lot of people wondering, “Who’s looking out for me?”
Sasse was quite frank about how members of Congress have failed American citizens by not doing their jobs. They punt their duties to the Supreme Court; therefore, the people expect the justices to be “super legislatures.” He boiled the hearing down to telling the Senators what to consider when they make their decisions about Kavanaugh.
So the question we have before us today is not what did Brett Kavanaugh think 11 years ago on some policy matter. The question before us is whether or not he has the temperament and the character to take his policy views and political preferences and put them in a box marked “irrelevant” and set it aside every morning when he puts on the black robe. The question is, “Does he have the character and temperament to do that?” If you don’t think he does, vote no. But if you think he does, stop the charades. Because, at the end of the day, I think all of us know that Brett Kavanaugh understands that his job isn’t to rewrite laws as he wishes they were. He understands that he’s not being interviewed to be a super legislator. He understands that his job isn’t to seek popularity. His job is to be fair and dispassionate. It is not to exercise empathy. It is to follow written laws.