Is Congress failing to keep the peace?
In a peaceful society, leaders’ discourse is respectful both of individuals and of institutions. Peace is engendered when disagreement is expressed with empathy and understanding, with respect for the position, assigned function and opinion of others. If respect is missing at the top, is not the bottom in danger?
In February, leaders of Congress and candidates for president created an atmosphere of suspicion and disrespect for both The President and the courts. Leaders were confrontational, dogmatic, hyperbolic, categorical and dismissive both of opinions and of the traditions of public hearings.
Acting under law passed by Congress in 1921, The President submitted a budget in early February. Within hours, the chairs of the Senate and House budget committees stated that no hearings will be held; they will not hear supporting testimony from The Budget Director of The United States; they will ignore The President, thereby communicating massive disrespect for the executive branch, as well as for the thousands of individuals who have advocated specific items in the budget.
Almost simultaneously, the majority leader of The Senate declared that no Supreme Court nominee will be heard and evaluated. No matter who is nominated by President Obama, no hearings will be held, and all forward progress blocked, out of a view that a president should not nominate, and a senate should not confirm, anyone offered by a president in his last year.*
Equally repugnant is that the declaration of noncooperation was advocated not by one or two senators on the floor, but by the person who leads all action in The Senate, the majority leader. His knee jerk statement communicated disrespect for the deceased, his family, and the court. A common, respectful approach would have been to delay all discussion, all politicking, until after the funeral. What harm would have been done by delay?
Respect is not policy. Legislators always maintain their right to vote, but respectful and diplomatic procedures protect our nation from cataclysmic divisions because those procedures allow everyone to speak and to be heard.
*One Senator quietly suggested hearings will be held.