In one of our era’s most dramatic moments on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. John McCain — fresh from brain surgery — delivered his colleagues a stark warning. Without a willingness to get their hands dirty, they’ll fail to do their duty as legislators, over and over again.
In this year’s final, momentous session of Congress, lawmakers must take that to heart. Major decisions must be made, and major bills passed. Failure here will damage our democracy at a critical moment.
Consider McCain’s counsel. “Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting,” he conceded. “It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.”
The alternative is executive power unbound — not just in the form of petty-tyrannical presidents, but in unwieldy and unaccountable regulatory agencies. We’ve suffered from both for too long.
Perhaps strangely, President Trump’s latest decisions on a host of pivotal issues seem to reflect that fact. Though the pundits are furiously debating his motives, Trump has moved or is preparing to move responsibility for several huge policy decisions back where it belongs — to Congress.
Take DACA, the regulatory action which discouraged deportation of undocumented young people without reconciling matters with the laws on the books. Or take the so-called Iran deal, which the Obama administration deliberately implemented as a non-treaty that therefore required no Senate ratification. Whatever the “right” policy, however defined, the legislature is the correct branch of government to decide.
Sadly, Congress has done its level best to push responsibilities onto regulators, pass a few gigantic omnibus measures without reading them, and repeat. What…