Franklin Kury, a former member of the Pennsylvania House and Senate, has an op-ed in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News that probably won't get the notice it merits. He thinks that the current gridlock in Washington has gotten to the point that we've reverted back to the days of the Articles of Confederation.
As a new nation we were governed under the Articles of Confederation for eight years after the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Managed by a congress of legislators from each new state, the new government proved ineffective, so weak that it couldn’t raise enough money to pay George Washington’s army or resolve trade disputes between states. In only a few years delegates from each state convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles to give the new nation a working national government.Kury sees a lot of parallels between the Continental Congress and today's Congress. With the Congress of the Confederation, the states were so concerned about their own interests that they weren't willing to help pay the massive debt left over from the Revolutionary War. At times, the Continental Congress didn't even have a quorum because so few states sent their delegates there. Kury sees the same parallels with this Congress, given that so many of its members--particularly Republicans--are unwilling to come together lest they anger their constituents back home.
T The House of Representatives is particularly distressing. The majority party acts if it were the British House of Commons, where the majority party forms and is the government. Our House, however, is only part of one branch of government. A solid block of the House majority in Washington refuses compromises and speaks only for the views of their districts. If all a Representative does is reflect his or her district, why do we need them? A computer poll could do just as well. But we need live Representatives who, while mindful of their district, can bring their judgment to bear in resolving issues in the national interest. Computers cannot do that. Representatives are elected from a district, but take an oath to help govern the entire nation.Well said. This is what we get when a large percentage of the Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate come from two groups--the tea party and the religious right. Both of them believe compromise is a four-letter word--and as Kury points out, that mentality nearly sent us over the fiscal cliff.
The Senate is responsible too. It has been controlled by a minority of 40 members with a rule that requires 60 votes to act on a bill that requires only 51 votes to pass. As a result little of a serious nature is voted on, let alone debated. Under such a rule the Senate is more like a club than a public institution legislating for a large and diverse nation.
Kury points out that the Constitution would have never even been written if people with views as divergent as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton hadn't been willing to set aside their differences for the good of the nation. Now? We have a significant segment of the GOP who was actually willing to risk sending us back into recession for the sake of protecting the tax rate of only two percent of the population. Sounds like Kury is on to something--a significant sector of our legislators forget that they have a duty to the nation at large as well as their district.