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A Crash Of Symbols

The newly-Republican House has announced two of their first planned actions once they formally take office and power. First up, they're going to read the entire Constitution on the floor of the House. Then, the first bill they will file will be the repeal of ObamaCare.

On the former, I wonder just what they will read --the whole thing, including the parts that have since been repealed and amendments, or just the main body as amended? But that's just the nerd in me.

Silghtly more important, I wonder what they hope to accomplish by doing these -- because both are essentially symbolic gestures, and I have a bias against such things.

In this case, though, I think that there is some real meaning and significance of both actions.

The reading of the Constitution is being couched as a declaration of principles, of reminding all -- including themselves and each other -- of the most important aspect of being a legislator. The Constitution is the highest law in the land, and it should always be in the forefront of lawmakers. A re-reading could only do good.

The ObamaCare repeal is already doomed to fail. It will pass the House comfortably. It will most likely die in the Senate, where the Republicans only hold 49 of 51 47 of 100 seats. And the Democrats -- with their 49 51 official members and 2 "independent" Senators who are Democrats in all but name (Lieberman and Sanders) -- can either openly defeat it or procedurally kill it. And even if the repeal passes the Senate, it faces a guaranteed Obama veto -- and the GOP will never get to 2/3 in either House to override the veto.

So, if in the end neither will really achieve anything, why do them? That's often been my objection.

The reason is that there are two purposes behind these actions, which will go nowhere.

The first is that it is a declaration of principles by the new House, spelling out what they believe in and what they intend to do. It's a shot across the bow of the Democratic Senate and the Obama White House -- this is a warning of what's to come.

The other reason is to give their supporters in the public reassurance -- that they know why they're there, why they were voted for, and what their supporters want. They are forswearing the ignorance excuse -- these two moves show that they know what the priorities are of their backers. They are saying, in effect, "this is a taste of what we intend to do. Please hold us to them."

So yeah, the Republicans in the House are going to read the Constitution aloud, and then pass a bill to repeal ObamaCare. The former will be nice, the latter will fail in relatively short order.

But it just might -- I hope -- be a peek into the shape of things to come. And I love teasers and spoilers.

Senate numbers fixed. Thanks, folks.

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Comments (31)

I think of it as "The Mouse... (Below threshold)
Don L:

I think of it as "The Mouse That Roared" with nukes.

For the GOP, stating why they're doing something is to solve one of their biggest weaknesses (as in Bush's not telling America what's right to do, and why they, and not the other side, are doing it.)

Sure it won't work, but so often, acts of principle (not just show) are the sharpest of swords. It should be good entertainment Jay.

Reading the Constitution, w... (Below threshold)
PBunyan:

Reading the Constitution, while not a bad thing, would only really be useful if there were members of the House that didn't know what it says. Sadly, and unfortunately for America, that's not the case--they do know what it says, they just don't care.

Repeal of ObamaCare will fa... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Repeal of ObamaCare will fail. But those who don't vote for repeal will have that used against them as a club in 2012.

Dems have 51 actual + 2 "in... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

Dems have 51 actual + 2 "independents" for a total of 53 votes.

"The former will be nice,..... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

"The former will be nice,..."
Actually I think it would be great if every session of Congress began with a reading of the Constitution. In fact, make a list of those present. I am not sure there is any more important document in our history than the Constitution. If you think reading the Constitution is "nice" I guess you feel that the President's Oath of Office to defend that document is also "nice" considering how well Obama has done so to this point.

Yeah, what anon said. Repub... (Below threshold)
Baggi:

Yeah, what anon said. Republicans only have 47 Senators.

I wish reading the Constitu... (Below threshold)
YouSeeMe:

I wish reading the Constitution, as currently amended, were a formal part of the opening of EVERY session of congress. Hell, we should make it a formal part of the swearing in of all elected federal officials; they all need a pointed reminder of why they are there and what they should be doing.

As for the 'symbolic gesture' of the repeal bill; this is simply the Republicans doing their job. I for one, voted for a candidate who promised to work to repeal Obamacare, and I would be very upset if he did not work to do so. Yes, it will most likely be defeated in the Senate or by O's veto, but that's not the point. The point is that it the the Representatives jobs to propose such legislation as they believe is in the best interest of the People and the nation. There fore this is not a symbolic gesture, it is the Republicans doing the job they were elected to do.

The repeal bill is importan... (Below threshold)
jim m:

The repeal bill is important because it makes them all take a stand. Of course it will never pass he Senate but that is beside the point. Forcing each and every elected representative to take a stand on this issue is the purpose and then let the public cast their votes as to whether that stand is how they want to be represented. Certainly some will be in favor of it and some not. But we deserve to have each of them make clear how they will represent us and they deserve to stand or fall on their decision.

jim m - Those are ... (Below threshold)
MikeNC:

jim m -

Those are my sentiments exactly. Put all of these people on record as to where they stand, particularly those up for re-election in 2 years. 2012 will be here before you know it.

Jim & Mike have it right. M... (Below threshold)
DukeofDeLand:

Jim & Mike have it right. Make every last DEM re-state their position on Obamacare...Then they are on record for 2012....The public has spoken..The GOP at least somewhat gets it, but the DEMs are still stuck on stupid about the public and its power. They will learn next election....well some of them will.

The vote to repeal Obamacar... (Below threshold)
kevino:

The vote to repeal Obamacare is a symbolic gesture, but for liberals who are ridiculing this gesture, I would remind them that it is very similar to the House passing a symbolic measure to end the war in Iraq while President Bush was in office. The difference between House Democrats in those days and House Republicans today is what follows. The Democrats not only failed to back up their demand to end the war in Iraq by de-funding it, they actually voted to give President Bush basically everything he wanted in one lump sum. I expect today's Republicans to do the right thing and de-fund Obamacare. If they can't remove the legislation, then (1) tell the American people more about the bad things in it, (2) neuter the bill by tacking on changes in other legislation, (3) shine a light on the dirty backroom deals that Democrats made, and (4) remove funding from their appropriations bills so that the odious law will cannot be enforced.

Democrats can refuse to vote on appropriations bills in the Senate, and President Obama can veto them, but that won't get him what he wants.

I agree with 8,9,10...my fe... (Below threshold)
mag:

I agree with 8,9,10...my feelings exactly.

The house leadership should... (Below threshold)
olhardhead:

The house leadership should have a vote on repeal of this monstrosity every week and make the dim's go on record voting FOR this crap! Voting Record's don't lie!

god bless our troops,
ol'

That is exactly the plan la... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

That is exactly the plan laid out by the republican majority. Get it on the record who is for the "Jobs killing bill of Obamacare". That is what it is called. Very smart. ww

Harry Reid tried to get Boe... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Harry Reid tried to get Boehner not to hold the vote on repeal, so it must be the right thing to do.

It is hardly "symbolic" in that it will pass the House easily, probably with a few Democratic votes (those still in purple districts). Since when has the House not voted on bills just because there was doubt they could win 60 votes in the Senate?

Reading the Constitution IS a symbolic gesture, but one worth making. It underlines the concept that Congress has been ignoring the Constitution, and underlines the new requirement that every bill have a constitutional justification clause.

If the dems dont want to br... (Below threshold)
retired military:

If the dems dont want to bring the repeal of Obamacare up for vote (cloture rules), that is fine. The House can say "We will not bring anymore bills up for vote until this has been voted on in the Senate".

Let all the funding bills stall in the House. The republicans can say that all that needs to be done to get things moving again is to have a vote for the repeal in the Senate.

Have that homeless guy Ted ... (Below threshold)
Razorgirl:

Have that homeless guy Ted Williams read it. Wow, what a set of pipes!

I have started counting the... (Below threshold)
dunce:

I have started counting the no,shall not,and nothing words in the costitution but have not yet finished. My point being that the libs have called the republicans the party of "no".Though they are unaware seemingly of the constitutions limits or choose to ignore them ,the party of no is a compliment as they are giving them credit for observing the basis of our govt.

2 things spring to mind imm... (Below threshold)
alanstorm:

2 things spring to mind immediately:

1) The D's can hardly complain about symbolic gestures, as they are the party that defines style over substance.

2) The unmentioned benefit of a repeal attempt is that is requires the D's time to deal with it one way or another, and that's time they can't spend creating more mischief.

Well at least we now have a... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Well at least we now have a Congress that will READ something!

But it just might -- I h... (Below threshold)
john:

But it just might -- I hope -- be a peek into the shape of things to come.

Here are a few to get you started:

Even before House Republicans took control of the chamber Wednesday, there were at least three areas where they appear to be backtracking on promises made: Cutting $100 billion in the first year, allowing opportunities for the minority party to offer amendments on bills, and making public attendance records for committee hearings.

And here's an oldie:

In March, House Republicans enacted a voluntary, unilateral one-year ban on earmarks... But as Election Day draws closer, House Republicans are sending voters a very different signal -- they are backing off the earmark ban.

They are saying, in effect, "this is a taste of what we intend to do. Please hold us to them."

Apparently not.

RE: Liberals have called th... (Below threshold)
kevino:

RE: Liberals have called the GOP the party of "No".

How true.

Do we want Obamacare? NO.
Do we want more federal police power? NO.
Do we want limitless regulation of our lives? NO.
Do we want more government control of the economy? NO.
Do we want continued high unemployment? NO.
Do we want liberal immigration reform? NO.
Do we want higher energy bills? NO.
Do we more debt? NO.

I'm OK with the GOP being the party of "No", but I'd be happier if they were the party of "Hell NO!"

Heh.<a href="http:... (Below threshold) 46, Moocowski is also an in... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

46, Moocowski is also an independent...

She won as a write in candidate even.
I wouldn't count on her as being anything other than a questionable Democrat vote either.

john, that's a bullshit cal... (Below threshold)

john, that's a bullshit calculation.

The Reps and their staff would still collect their pay whether or not they'd be there. Further, the staffers would still likely be at the office, which means that the police and utilities would still be necessary. Finally, the support agencies work pretty much year-round.

A fairer calculation would be how much spending Congress normally spends an hour, and credit that -- here's three hours that they won't be spending money. So that's a plus in my book.

J.

The vote on obamacare may b... (Below threshold)
Olsoljer:

The vote on obamacare may be symbolic but it is going to put on record each individual senator and representative position, as well as obamas should it squeak through the senate. Those supporting obamacare will be clubbed with it come 2012. The real revelation will come when the Supreme Court issues its opinion of the constitutionality of the law. Since the members of ALL the branches swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, those members of the Supreme Court legislating from the bench in support of the law will then be guilty of violating that oath and subject to removal. The next question would be: Are the members of the legislative and executive branch also guilty of violating their oath and, if so, to what degree, and would removal from office be in order? While legally it could reach that level, I don't expect it to happen, but what a declaration to the world if it did.

As to reading the Constitution to the House, I would beg to differ with the idea that all congressmen know what it says, Boehner should preface the reading with the statement that this IS the law, and all members of the House will strictly adhere to it, regardless of party affiliation, or be held accountable,

Jay, go to work today, and ... (Below threshold)
john:

Jay, go to work today, and instead of doing your job, just stand in the lunchroom for several hours reading aloud various government documents. When your boss complains that you're not working, just explain that you'd still collect your same pay if you were working, and the office utilities would still be necessary, so any concern that you're wasting his money is just a bullshit calculation. Explain that if you were working, you'd be running up phone bills or using up paper and toner, so your alternate behavior is actually a plus.

The next question would ... (Below threshold)
john:

The next question would be: Are the members of the legislative and executive branch also guilty of violating their oath and, if so, to what degree, and would removal from office be in order? While legally it could reach that level, I don't expect it to happen, but what a declaration to the world if it did.

Spoken like a fringe Democrat during the Bush/Republican years.

Reading the constitution is... (Below threshold)
John:

Reading the constitution is like reading a companies mission statement. Given how far off the reservation congress has gotten lately I think it's a grand idea to remind them of the limits of their power and the mission statement of the US government. john care to compare that to having mock impeachments in the basement?

As Nancy Pelosi said "We do... (Below threshold)
John:

As Nancy Pelosi said "We don't know what is in this bill till we pass it" well it is passed and now it needs to be killed, The fed's have no authority to tell us what americans will purchase, but it was only a matter of time before they tried. They told us and we went along with the mininum wage. By what authority do they have to tell you what to pay someone? A private enterprise is just that, and the feds have no authority to tell you what to pay employees, just like they have no say telling CEO's how much they can earn.
As the repeal bill is being sent through the proper process, the House needs to start to make sure the funds are never allotted for this overreching power grab.

Fun little analogy, john, b... (Below threshold)

Fun little analogy, john, but it fails on several fronts.

For one, one particular Rep's boss had no problem with him doing that -- me. My rep was there, and I was quite happy that he wasn't doing more "substantive" things.

Secondly, I directly generate revenue for my company. So when I goof off, I'm costing them money. Reps do NOT generate revenue -- except out of my pocket.

Third, I work in the private sector. I'm an employee at will That's a whole kettle of fish.

Um... what was your point again?

J.




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