Michael Tomasky lambasted House Speaker John Boehner on The Daily Beast Wednesday for Boehner’s recent comment that Republicans should be judged on how many laws they repeal, not how many new ones they pass. The special correspondent summed up his feelings in the article’s sub-headline: "This is unprecedented, irresponsible, and terrifying.”
And why was Boehner’s statement “terrifying?” Because it was a sign of Republicans’ embrace of dysfunction. Apparently the function of Congress is to pass never-ending rafts of new, government-growing legislation:
"The Republican Party now sees dysfunction as not just an unfortunate consequence of a set of historical factors, something that they might work every now and again to correct. Now, the Republican Party sees dysfunction as its mission."
Tomasky must consider it dysfunctional to want to repeal bad legislation. This means that, in his view, a government’s functionality is measured by how many laws it passes. God help us all if our federal government begins to function well according to this criterion.
The idea that elected officials should prevent bad laws from passing is not new, despite what Tomasky asserted in the article. It was the backbone of Grover Cleveland’s governing philosophy in the 1880s and 1890s. President Cleveland, a Democrat, vetoed a whopping 414 bills during his first term – and 170 more during his second term – because he believed it was the president’s job to protect Americans from harmful legislation. Speaker Boehner and other House Republicans now seem to believe it is their job to protect the country from bad legislation.
Similarly, Republican President Calvin Coolidge was known for his aversion to passing legislation for the sake of legislation. "It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones," he famously quipped.
Tomasky also claimed that America “had a tradition of legislative deference to the president.” However, that particular “tradition” only goes back to the beginning of the Progressive era. Before Theodore Roosevelt came along, Congress typically drove the nation’s legislative agenda. But for a liberal like Tomasky, America's promise as a nation really began with the Progressive era and the dawn of big government.
Tomasky fumed at the Republican “pyromaniacs” who were elected to the House in 2010 or later: “They didn’t come to pass legislation. They came to burn the place down.... They have brought us to a place we’ve never been before: post-governance America.” Tomasky seems to think it’s a good idea for the government to pass laws just for the sake of passing laws.
Tomasky ended his article by painting a dire picture of the stakes: “This isn’t a partisan crisis. It’s a historical crisis.” He called on leaders from the business world to “stand up and say to the Republicans that dysfunction cannot be your mission. You must govern. Govern conservatively, but govern.” Tomasky needs to consider the possibility that protecting the country from harmful legislation is, in fact, conservative governance.
It’s typical of liberal commentators to hold our leaders to the standard of Big Government, even though that standard was only established relatively recently. They don’t want to admit that America has a much older tradition, dating back to our founding, of limited government.
(Read the full Daily Beast article here.)