Sunday, December 21, 2008

Is Congress becoming irrelevant?

When George W Bush announced loans to automakers from the TARP program, after Congress failed to pass a bailout, I asked the question why Congresspeople were praising the move. If the President can bypass Congress in something like this, why not bypass them altogether? Now, George Will is asking whether Congress has essentially become irrelevant for the foreseeable future of government.

Congress' marginalization was brutally underscored when, after Congress did not authorize $14 billion for General Motors and Chrysler, the executive branch said, in effect: Congress' opinions are mildly interesting, so we will listen very nicely -- then go out and do precisely what we want.

Friday the president gave the two automakers access to money Congress explicitly did not authorize. More money -- up to $17.4 billion -- than had been debated, thereby calling to mind Winston Churchill on naval appropriations: "The Admiralty had demanded six ships: the economists offered four: and we finally compromised on eight."
If the use of TARP funds is not challenged in the Supreme Court, then Congress will simply have given up and we may well be on our way to a dictatorship. Or at least an Empire.

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