Rob Douglas: Return to regular order

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— Across the globe, Americans awaken each day and set out to tackle the responsibilities and challenges of their jobs in order to provide financial and physical security for their families and their country. From the miners who work underground to provide coal for electricity, to the ranchers and farmers who toil from sunup to sundown to provide food for our plates, to the men and women of our armed forces who risk their lives overseas to provide security for us at home, we are a nation that thrives when each of us performs our job to the best of our ability.

Given that Americans traditionally value those who work hard, it's difficult to fathom why we tolerate the ongoing refusal by our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. to exert the effort needed to successfully tackle the challenges and responsibilities of their jobs — even when the constant evasion of those responsibilities is demonstrably harming a national economy that is just beginning to show small indications of improvement.

On Wednesday we learned that because of the repeated failures by President Barack Obama and Congress to conduct the nation's financial affairs in a timely manner that is in keeping with their constitutional and legal obligations, our country will "hit the debt ceiling" on the same day we've been warned for months that we'll potentially "go off the fiscal cliff" — Jan. 1.

Happy New Year!

Only in America can our elected officials manage to simultaneously mangle the economy and the lexicon on a day normally set aside for the optimism that comes with cracking the binding on a new calendar.

Given the stench of incompetence emanating from both ends of a 16-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, it's no wonder that the Conference Board reported this week that its consumer-confidence index for December dropped to the lowest level since November 2011. Not surprisingly, the steep month-over-month slide from this November – 80.9 to 66.5 – is reminiscent of what happened the last time Congress was up against the debt ceiling in August 2011.

Arguably, a seemingly endless series of Washington-induced fiscal crises is what happens when just three individuals — the president, the Senate majority leader and the Speaker of the House — continually thwart the regular order process that served Congress and the executive branch well for several hundred years before being jettisoned in recent decades by leaders of both political parties.

In July, former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, currently the director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, wrote about this problem in a piece titled "Why Congress's future should lie in the past." Hamilton reminds us that under regular order, a bill is brought "before a committee, whose members listen to what witnesses have to say and then argue over amendments to the bill both in committee and on the floor. Then a final version gets debated before being sent over to the other body, where the entire process gets repeated. Finally, the two versions get reconciled in a conference committee before the measure goes on to the president."

Most Americans, having studied how a bill becomes federal law as school children, believe this is how Congress operates. Not so. Currently, most bills, including those concerning the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling, never see the light of day — much less the House or Senate floor — until they've been cooked by the congressional leadership and White House aides behind closed doors. The bill is then presented to the 535 members of the House and Senate as a fait accomplis for an immediate vote with no opportunity for meaningful deliberation or amendments.

In short, the current process destroys the very essence of a representative democracy by denying a majority of our representatives the opportunity to achieve lasting, bipartisan consensus by debating matters of national importance in an open and transparent manner on the floor of the House and Senate.

It is time that Americans demand that the nation's business be conducted publicly by all members of the House and Senate — not by a few so-called leaders behind locked doors.

It is time to demand a return to regular order.

Comments

John St Pierre 1 year, 11 months ago

for all there failings... we need the likes Lydon Johnson, Speaker Rayburn, Tip O'Niel and the old school reps who knew how to give and take and get things done.....

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 11 months ago

We have a mess on our hands and we need a competent media to paint us a picture in order for voters to decide what to do. Under the present situation we are basically a dictatorship..

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

The Federal Reserve runs the show, serving their own interests first, the pols are puppets, their squabbles a performance for the populace, and anybody who can't see that has blinders on.

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mark hartless 1 year, 11 months ago

I have been thinking a lot lately about the exact point Fred just made.

When you are flying an aircraft you need your gauges to be working and you better know how to use them. Not knowing how to use them will get you killed. Not having gauges at all will also get you killed.

But you know what will get you killed even quicker??? Knowing how to read and use gauges and having them working BUT reading incorrectly. Especially if they are incorrect but close enough that they are still sort of believeable.

This gives a pilot a false sense of security, thinking he is somewhere that he is not. Thinking altitude is not below critical, thinking those mountains are 2 miles further away or 2,000 feet lower, or that his fuel tank is still half full, etc. Bang! You're dead.

Our media is supposed to work like gauges in an aircraft, telling the truth, black and white facts and facts alone. Instead, the media has something to sell. They lie to us like faulty gauges in that aircraft and far too many Americans take that information and make bad decisions with it... deadly decisions.

That mountain goat up ahead there in those clouds?... he ain't walking on sunshine, folks.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Hey Mark -- The media's scripts are dictated to them. I worked on the center in Glendale AZ -- ostensibly a Fire/SWAT/Swift Water training facility -- but also the Homeland Security nerve center, where ALL national and international news stories are monitored and pre-screened, in many cases the reporters told what to say. The Feds script everything you hear. Beg me for details, I'll fill this forum. Conspiracy theorist? Yeah.

Thanks for your affirmation regarding my weapons choices. My gunsmith buddy will build my .308, it doesn't have to be Browning, any quality brand, but bolt action, quality optics, and a 2-lb trigger squeeze. 00 buck in the 870, for close-in. I don't need no stinking assault weapons. Pistols neither -- whip one out, see what happens.

In high school, I ran with the jocks, and the freaks. I'm not liberal, I'm not conservative, I'm both, it depends on the issue. Everybody's got a song to sing.

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 11 months ago

I also believe the issue is the media, but as a technology not as the bias.
We had a representative government where we elected people to go off and represent us and do what they thought was right. Every 6 months or so they would come home and give us a town hall meeting in hindsight. Our representative government has changed because our representatives know what their constituents think about on every issue before they vote. As technology has increased from phones, to e-mail and websites the issue has gotten worse. They truly represent us or else we will get rid of them.

Unfortunately, we are a nation of idiots that are not capable of looking at these complex multifaceted issues and making decisions (myself included).

So in my opinion the people are running the country more than ever before and the people are ignorant. Our representatives are going to be known as the person that voted to raise taxes or he/she didn't on this fiscal cliff issue. The issue is so much more complex than that but the system we have does not allow these officials to do what they think is best without suffering repercussions from the ignorant masses.
I don't blame the elected officials at all. The elected officials are working in a broken system where they don't have a chance to succeed. If we want change we have to "tweak" our system of government. If we are going to hang on a constitution that was created without the knowledge of what life would be like today then we will suffer the same demise as the dodo bird.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

I received an email request, through the Pilot, for some exponunciation on my claim that the Feds script the news you hear. Here goes:

In 2007, I worked for an excavation contractor in Phoenix -- we made building pads, roads, and parking lots. My software was still in development, a total rewrite yet to come.

We had a contract on a SWAT/fire/swift water training center under construction in Glendale, west Phoenix, a few miles west of the new Cabella's store (what a shrine). It was HUGE, at least a half mile wide by a mile deep. In back they were building a whole little town, so they could mimic most any fire -- high apartment fires, single dwellings, propane tanks, train crossings, I counted about 50 different types. They also built a swift water training course -- two ponds, with a river connecting them, they would recirculate the water, and it had road bridge and railroad crossings. There was also a shooting range, and maybe 30 acres of driving course. It is an AWESOME facility, would make the FBI training center in Quantico look like a Boy Scout camp.

Now fearing I may be approaching the character limit of an individual post, I have set the scene, will continue to the good part in another installment.

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rhys jones 1 year, 11 months ago

Part II: In the course of my job, I befriended the project superintendant, as we often had to coordinate activities. One day I was lolling about the HQ trailer complex, awaiting his return and enjoying the cool air... On the wall, and a central planning table, were blueprints for the facility, which I was checking out. Up front, facing Glendale Ave, was a huge 4-story building, with offices and classrooms. The plans had detail -- plumbing and electrical, eg -- for the top 3 floors, but on all drawings, the bottom floor was absent any detail, just said "Administrative Area." Curious, I asked the Super about that, upon his return.

"You haven't been in there yet? Well I suppose you can't get in there now; they're already using it." He went on to explain that that is the nerve center for Homeland Security. There are literally hundreds of TV screens in there, where they monitor every national and international story, from every network, BEFORE it hits the air, and in many cases, they tell the reporter what spin to put on the story.

So you aren't getting the news as it happens. You're getting the news as the government wants you to think it happened.

Eisenhower warned us about the "military-industrial complex" and JFK was dead within three weeks of disbanding the Federal Reserve. LBJ's first act was to reinstate them.

The monster has grown, and we are indeed The Ugly American. The whole world is our enemy, and we won't be happy until they are all Christians with Federal Reserve bank accounts. And there's nothing we can do to stop it.

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Rob Douglas 1 year, 11 months ago

Hopefully, this is true.

"Boehner tells GOP he’s through negotiating one-on-one with Obama"

"In closed-door meetings since leaving the “fiscal cliff” talks two weeks ago, lawmakers and aides say the Speaker has indicated he is abandoning that approach for good and will return fully to the normal legislative process in 2013 — seeking to pass bills through the House that can then be adopted, amended or reconciled by the Senate. "He is recommitting himself and the House to what we've done, which is working through regular order and letting the House work its will,” an aide to the Speaker told The Hill."

see: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/275295-boehner-tells-gop-hes-done-with-one-on-one-obama-talks

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