By Oscar H. Blayton
$174,000.00 – That’s what every member of the House of Representatives receives in salary each year. Every member, that is, except Nancy Pelosi, who as the Speaker of the House, gets to take home $223,500.00.
Those are not bad wages, even if these legislators work five days a week with only two weeks off annually for vacation. But Congress has averaged only 138 legislative days a year since 2001. If you do the math, you will see that comes to less than three days a week.
Undoubtedly, many members of the House of Representatives can articulate why they need so few days in session. Their stated reasoning might include the rigors of carrying out their constitutionally mandated functions.
But therein lies the rub. The House of Representatives is refusing to carry out one of its more important constitutionally mandated functions.
When the Founders of this nation wrote the Constitution, they did not want the country to be forced to blindly trust and follow the person holding the office of the President. And for this reason, they divided the power of the government into three distinct branches and gave each branch equal status.
In order to prevent the President from becoming a tyrant, the House and Senate were given the responsibility and authority to perform oversight of the Executive Branch.
In order to properly carry out their job, Congress must provide oversight of the president.
We now have a sick and twisted man-baby fouling the oval office. Donald Trump does not respect the rule of law or the institutions of our federal government. He is determined to bend all aspects of our national structure to his will and he has found pliant minions who have been willing to ignore, and even break, the law in service to their overlord. Neither Congress nor the nation has ever seen anything like this before. The purulent character of Trump has infected most agencies of the executive branch of our government and released bigots, misogynists, xenophobes and every other manner of villain as antigens into the body of our democratic society.
While Trump burns down the house that America has built, Republican lawmakers have become his collaborators. And too many Democratic members of the House of Representatives, cowered by the thought of angering the Republican base, simply quail in the face of this onslaught against our liberties.
Two centuries ago, Congress was given a tool with which to rein in or remove an abusive president because the Founders knew it was possible a day like today might arrive.
The House of Representatives has the power of impeachment. In fact, it has the “sole” power of impeachment. The Senate cannot impeach. It can only try a federal officer who has been impeached by the House of Representatives. The process has been clearly laid out in Sections 2 and 3 of Article I of the Constitution. Once the president has been impeached by the House of Representatives for high crimes and misdemeanors, he or she is then tried on those charges by the Senate; and if convicted, he or she shall be removed from office. The House of Representatives does the impeachment and then the Senate conducts the trial.
The impeachment process allows the House of Representatives to investigate the wrongdoings of Donald Trump – wrongdoings that are clearly laid out in the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And if substantiated, those wrongdoings can then be presented to the Senate where their deliberations can be observed by the American public.
But rather than carry out their sworn duty, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, citing the difficulties in carrying out impeachment proceedings, would rather call on the American electorate to vote Trump out of office in 2020. This strategy is designed to maximize Democratic seats in Congress while relieving the Democratic majority in the House of the obligation of doing its difficult job.
Fear of losing elections because you did your job is putting party before country.
This calculated political expediency – and shirking from impeachment – is one reason why the current Democratic leadership in the House cannot stay in place much longer. Attempts at dressing this self-serving cowardice in a suit of tactical shrewdness will not dupe right thinking Americans. Nancy Pelosi has argued that impeachment proceedings will solidify Trump’s base. Clearly, she is making a political calculation and not a moral decision grounded in the Constitution and her oath of office.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.