(NNPA)—Last week, in the latest example of political posturing, the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not producing certain documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” program of providing guns to drug gangs and tracking their use in Mexico. The White House, meanwhile, cited executive privilege to withhold requested documents.
The procedural vote by the Oversight Committees appears to have been taken merely for embarrassment value in an election year. The last time I checked, the American people elect members of Congress and expect the Department of Justice to handle matters of national importance that affect their everyday lives.
Therefore, we, the people, hold Congress in contempt for partisan pettiness. We hold Congress in contempt for seeking individual power over the people’s priorities and for hypocrisy in voting for a higher form of health care for themselves than for most Americans. We also hold Congress in contempt for cowardly employing a filibuster rather than doing so in the ambient of public debate.
This latest move by obstinate and obstructionists in Congress is pure posturing. Ironically, the issue may end up being decided by the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. To ask the attorney general to investigate his department when documents show that the Fast and Furious program was a low-level, botched operation is ridiculous. When Holder learned about the program, he stopped it.
The Senate is no better in addressing the priorities of the public largely because of the legislative roadblock known as the filibuster. The filibuster is a legislative procedure that originated as the “Previous Question” law in England. Since American law is base on British Common Law, the filibuster found its way through the halls of Congress around 1800. Aaron Burr raised the use of the filibuster after he raised his revolver and killed Alexander Hamilton in a deadly duel.
Simply put, the filibuster allows one political party (usually the minority) to circumvent the majority rule of 51 percent in the Senate by requiring a “super majority.” The House, on the other hand, allows 51 percent to rule. Our nation teaches grade-school students that “the majority rules.” Unlike the House, the United States Senate has its own rules where a “super majority” (60 votes) is needed to pass legislation on a routine basis.
While a Super Majority should be necessary for war, impeachment, and other important issues or “high crimes,” using the back room filibuster is neither transparent nor effective. What results is political gridlock nearly impossible to explain to a 7-year-old.
One policy solution is to gradually outlaw filibuster, with an effective date two years away, thus avoiding partisan ploys to benefit a political party instead of the public interest.
The latest Congressional spectacle reminds me of the movie, “…And Justice for All” in which, after being excoriated by a sitting judge as “…out of order.” Al Pacino’s character righteously retorts, “No, your honor, you are out of order! The entire system is out of order!” Today, if I may speak for all Americans of reason, Congress is out of order, and should be held in contempt. Moreover, on November 6, the contempt of common people should be directed to the voting booth to remove recalcitrant our representatives in Congress.
(Gary L. Flowers is executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.)