Paul L. Caron
Dean




Sunday, November 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1298: The IRS Scandal And A Trump-Ryan Constitutional Revival

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: A Trump-Ryan Constitutional Revival: Wariness of Trump Might Inspire Republicans in Congress to Give Up Lazy Delegation and Relearn the Art of Legislating, by Christopher DeMuth (Hudson Institute):

A central purpose of the American scheme of checks and balances is to draw out the distinctive strengths of the two political branches, executive and the legislature, while containing their distinctive weaknesses.

The scheme has not been working well of late. The consequences are unbridled executive growth into every cranny of commerce and society, and a bystander Congress. We have lapsed into autopilot government, rife with corruption and seemingly immune to incremental electoral correction.

These pathologies were a significant cause of the Trumpian political earthquake. And one of the many astonishing results of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican sweep on Election Day is that they have set the stage for a constitutional revival. ... [T]he new president and Congress are poised to revive constitutional practices in their own branches.

One of these practices is results-oriented policy making—so-called transactional politics—an approximation of what the Founders meant by “deliberation.” Another, “checks and balances,” is vigorous policy competition between the executive branch and Congress. Both practices have fallen into disuse in what had seemed, until now, to be a continuing downward spiral of dysfunctional government. ...

Congress is bound to recover and assert many of its long-neglected legislative prerogatives. In recent decades, our scheme of separated powers has been supplanted by party solidarity between presidents and their congressional co-partisans. (Separation of Parties, Not Powers is the title of an influential 2006 study of this development by Daryl J. Levinson and Richard H. Pildes.)

Members of Congress have increasingly acted out of loyalty to party rather than to Congress as an independent constitutional branch. They support or obstruct administration initiatives along partisan lines, and when in support they receive fundraising and bureaucratic favors from the president in return. During periods of party-unified government, congressional majorities delegate broad lawmaking powers to the executive, as in the Affordable Care and Dodd-Frank acts, that are almost impossible to recover when divided government returns. Congressional minorities allied with the president, employing the Senate filibuster and other supermajority rules, ensure that Congress turns a blind eye to executive abuses, as in the recent IRS and Veterans hospital scandals. ...

If [congressional Republicans] want to participate in charting new courses for health-care, tax and immigration policy and financial regulation, they are going to have to give up lazy policy delegation to the executive and relearn the arts of legislating and collective choice. And if President Trump should try to settle these and similarly momentous matters through Obama-style executive decrees, they are going to have to cry foul and make it stick.

The hard intraparty contention of the 2016 campaign has prepared the congressional Republicans for this. President-elect Trump’s obvious relish for transactional politics, and the largeness of his ambitions, suggests that he is prepared as well. The likely evanescence of Barack Obama’s Congress-free domestic and foreign initiatives—the already voided immigration policies, the Clean Power Plan, the Iran deal, national rules for bathroom etiquette—should inspire everyone to stay at the table. ...

These would be healthy developments for our constitutional order. Presidents have the strengths of action, decisiveness, high aspiration and a national political mandate—along with the weaknesses of overreaching, insularity and concentration of power. They oversee a bureaucratic empire too vast for any one man to keep track of, and so powerful that abuse and corruption are commonplace.

Congresses have the strengths of full-spectrum political representation, 535 state and local mandates, and responsiveness to shifting popular concerns and a soft spot for human-rights minorities at home and abroad—along with the weaknesses of parochialism, irresolution, decision-by-committee and herd mentality.

We need more of the strengths and less of the weaknesses. But transactional politics and interbranch rivalry are no guarantee of happy outcomes, which depend ultimately on the constitution of the participants. The record of tough-guy political outsiders is less than great. Businessman Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, came to office promising to upend the status quo. But when they discovered how entrenched and hard-bitten the status quo really was, they promptly folded, contented themselves with mere celebrity, and accomplished nothing.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/11/the-irs-scandal-day-1298-the-irs-scandal-and-a-trump-ryan-constitutional-revival.html

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