A salary of $174,000 — that’s what every member of the House of Representatives receives each year. Every member, that is, except Nancy Pelosi. As House Speaker, she gets to take home $223,500.
Those are not bad wages, even if these legislators work five days a week with only two weeks off annually for vacation. But, Congress has averaged only 138 legislative days a year since 2001. That comes to less than three days a week.
Undoubtedly, many House members can articulate why they need so few days in session. Their stated reasonings might include the rigors of carrying out their constitutionally-mandated functions.
But therein lies the rub. The House is refusing to carry out one of its more important functions.
When the Founding Fathers of this nation wrote the Constitution, they did not want the country to be forced to blindly trust and follow the person holding the office of the president. For this reason, they divided the power of the government into three distinct branches and gave each branch equal status.
To prevent the president from becoming a tyrant, the House and Senate were both given the responsibility and authority to perform oversight of the Executive Branch.
In order to properly carry out their job, Congress must provide oversight of the president.
We now have a sick and twisted man-baby fouling the oval office. President Donald Trump does not respect the rule of law or the institutions of our federal government. He is determined to bend all aspects of our national structure to his will and has found pliant minions who have been willing to ignore, and even break, the law in service to their overlord.
Neither Congress nor the nation, for that matter, have ever seen anything like this before. Trump’s purulent character has infected most agencies of the executive branch of our government and released bigots, misogynists, xenophobes and every other manner of villainy as antigens into the body of our democratic society.
While Trump burns down the house that America has built, Republican lawmakers have become his collaborators. And, too many House Democrats, cowered by the thought of angering the Republican base, simply quail in the face of this onslaught against our liberties.
Two centuries ago, Congress was given a tool with which to rein in or remove an abusive president because the Founding Fathers knew it was possible a day like today might arrive.
The House of Representatives has the power of impeachment. In fact, it has the “sole” power of impeachment. The process has been clearly laid out in Sections 2 and 3 of Article I of the Constitution.
Once the president has been impeached by the House for high crimes and misdemeanors, he or she is then tried on those charges by the Senate. If convicted, he or she shall be removed from office. The House does the impeachment and then the Senate conducts the trial.
The impeachment process allows the House to investigate Trump’s wrongdoings — wrongdoings that are clearly laid out in the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And, if substantiated, those wrongdoings can then be presented to the Senate where their deliberations can be observed by the American public.
But rather than carry out their sworn duty, the House’s Democratic leadership, citing difficulties in carrying out impeachment proceedings, would rather call on the American electorate to vote Trump out of office in 2020. This strategy is designed to maximize Democratic seats in Congress while relieving the Democratic majority in the House of the obligation of doing its difficult job.
Fear of losing elections because you did your job is putting party before country.
This calculated political expediency— and shirking from impeachment — is one reason why the current Democratic leadership in the House cannot stay in place much longer.
Attempts at dressing this self-serving cowardice in a suit of tactical shrewdness will not dupe right-thinking Americans. Pelosi has argued that impeachment proceedings will solidify Trump’s base. Clearly, she is making a political calculation and not a moral decision grounded in the Constitution and her oath of office.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.