Former U.S. senators are begging Republicans to do their jobs and uphold the Constitution and if doing so puts them in political danger, the former senators said they’ll do whatever it takes to save them.
In a letter from 70 former senators in the Washington Post, they accused the Senate of not fulfilling their duties. They explained that the framers of the Constitution crafted Article I to give legislative powers for a reason. Without use of those powers, lawmaking is handed to the less democratic judicial branch.
“We are writing to encourage the creation of a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended,” the letter began.
They specifically blasted officials for ceding power to the president as well, citing war powers and regulation of international trade.
“In addition, the partisan gridlock that is all too routine in recent decades has led the executive branch to effectively ‘legislate’ on its own terms through executive order and administrative regulation. The Senate’s abdication of its legislative and oversight responsibilities erodes the checks and balances of the separate powers that are designed to protect the liberties on which our democracy depends,” the letter continued.
Some of the senators confessed that their colleagues lamented the diminished power of the Senate made them wonder if there was any point to them even serving in office anymore.
“We do not want to give the impression that we served in some golden age when the Senate operated like clockwork and its members embraced one another as one big happy family,” the letter went on. “Of course, that was never the case. Senators have always advanced strongly held positions and have vigorously engaged in legislative combat.”
Their concern, the letter continued, is that the legislative process isn’t working anymore in the Senate. Some of it has to do with committees who no longer have a responsibility to write legislation, rules let debates go on, the filibuster has been abused, then completely eviscerated. It now takes 60 votes to pass anything.
“This is new and obstructionist; it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture in the once relatively exceptional event of a filibuster,” the senators said. “Filibusters are now threatened as a matter of course and are too readily acceded to. Neither in committee nor on the floor do rank-and-file members have reasonable opportunities to advance their positions by voting on legislation.”
They want bipartisanship, whether President Donald Trump does or not.
“This does not have to be viewed as a judgment on today’s Senate leadership; instead, it’s a bipartisan act of shared responsibility and accountability for how we arrived at this point,” the letter said.
Interestingly, however, these 70 senators never sent a letter like this when the U.S. Senate shutdown during President Barack Obama’s administration, refusing to pass laws, judges or even hold a hearing on a Supreme Court justice nominee they’d already overwhelmingly voted to support.
Regardless of how the times have changed, any senators fearful they’ll lose their job for standing up for what’s right, need not worry about a primary or an attack from the president.
“We, who once held the office you now hold and who are confident that service in the U.S. Senate is as high a calling for you as it was for us, will stand up for you against any partisan opposition,” the letter promised. “We will do so publicly and repeatedly in whatever available forums. And we are convinced that many ordinary Americans will stand up for you as well, as they share our concern for the state of our government.”
The letter closed by saying that the stakes are too high and the American democracy too important to allow it to continue.