Rick Perry Loves the Constitution
Via The Hill‘s Blog Briefing Room: Perry, Huntsman pledge major changes for Congress
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday Perry said he would make “Washington as insignificant as possible” by “getting government out of the way.”
The Lone Star state chief executive said he would “make Congress a part-time institution” modeled after the Iowa legislature. (Perry has launched a bus tour across the state ahead of the January GOP caucuses there.)
By cutting the amount of time members spend in Washington, they would need to “have a real job” and work alongside “real people,” Perry said.
Lawmakers also would spend “less money” and stumble into “less mischief in Washington, D.C.” if Congress was in town less often, Perry said.
First, while sometimes the notion of “getting government out of the way” has merit, blanket statements like this make me think about the story of the fee-for-service fire department in Tennessee.
Second, I am struck by the notion that Perry seems to think that the President of the United States has any say over the amount of time that the US Congress meets (apart from calling special session, which is the opposite of what he is talking about here).
Article I, Section 4, Clause 2 states “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year,” and in Article I, Section 5, Clause 4 notes “Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.” However, the President is given no say in the matter, save in the case of disputes between the two chambers. The only presidential powers regarding congressional sessions are in Article II, Section 3: ”he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper”. So, he can call a special, additional session, or he can get involved in an adjournment if the two chambers are in disagreement about such.
And, quite frankly, as much as it is easy to pick on Congress, it is pretty clear that the main problem at the moment is not that they do too much, but they don’t do enough (key examples: we still have no budget and no viable long-term spending plan).
To quote AEI’s congressional expert, Norm Ornstein (again):
“The big problem is that members of Congress aren’t spending enough time in Washington. And this current House has the smallest number of days in session in modern memory, and they’ve pretty much pushed a lot of urgent matters, including many of these budgetary matters, off the table.”
Another problematic feature of a part-time congress is that it would enhance the power of the executive, which would alter the relationship of the branches without the constitutional separation of powers system (one which, by the way, was seen by Madison—see Federalist 51,* for example—as a system of legislative, not executive, dominance).
But, fundamentally, it simply isn’t the president’s job to determine the congress’ schedule. And that is a constitutional position.
To round out the headline quoted at the start of the post, Huntsman apparently said that he would work for term limits. This is something that would require a constitutional amendment, and therefore is also outside the scope of the presidency.
On this same general topic, see Doug Mataconis’ post: Rick Perry Declares War On The First Amendment.
It sure would be nice if politicians who rant about the sanctity of the constitution would, you know, actually know what was in the document (as well as what one has to do to change it).
*”In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.”