The impeachment process was supposed to be a moment that would call upon the better angels of all Senators to rise above the non-stop partisan debate to honor the constitutional values of the United States. But in that case, the rules outlined by the founding fathers failed Americans as Republicans consistently voted against the will of their constituents and for whatever Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told them.
It was enough for conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin to demand a better process. In a Sunday column, Rubin suggested other ways be used to create a better process.
"The first concerns tools for congressional oversight," wrote Rubin. "Statutory penalties for contempt of Congress with swift review by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, tightening time limits for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests and enacting penalties for abuse, and reinforcement of whistleblower protections (and penalties for outing and retaliating against whistleblowers) must be considered. We need criminal statutes expressly barring solicitation of information from a foreign government for use in an election. All presidents and vice presidents must release their tax returns and place their business holdings in a blind trust."
Her point about penalties is a real one. For example, if senators spoke on the floor during the impeachment, they could be arrested. If they brought in a triple-shot latte, they could be arrested. But when Republicans willingly stood and raised their right hand to consider the evidence in an impartial way, and then openly ignored it, there were no consequences. No senator was barred from voting if they had already said they'd decided, on the record, one way or another on the president's guilt.
Then there's the role of Congress that has slowly fallen to the executive in administration after administration. Constitutionally, the executive branch is not supposed to be the most powerful, Congress is, because it is, theoretically, the greatest representation of the people. But over the years, the powers of Congress have eroded, delivering greater un-checked powers to the president.
Rubin also argued that it's time for Congress to reclaim its powers, repeal "emergency powers," take back the power to regulate tariffs, demand "acting" Cabinet officials be confirmed by the Senate within 60 days, fill in more rules for the War Powers Act and limit the authorization for the use of force to a shorter period, with an option to reauthorize.
She also demanded a new president withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel memo saying that a president can't be indicted because no president should be above the law.
"Constraint on the unilateral powers of the president is long overdue," she continued. "As in the post-Watergate years, the potential for executive branch abuse should serve as impetus for significant limits on executive power. It will be tempting for the next president to simply imitate President Trump’s imperial conduct to speed through an agenda that undoes Trump policies. That would be a mistake. The perfect time to enact restraints on the president is when the president and the Congress are of the same party."
She closed with a list of a kind of legislative wish-list; things that should be granted in the U.S., like statehood for Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, get rid of the electoral college, automatic voter registration and more.