The public should not need to fret this much about one Supreme Court nominee.
No one explains this better than U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska. A civic scholar and former university president, Sasse earned a doctorate in history from Yale and a bachelor’s in government from Harvard. Nonetheless, he cites “Schoolhouse Rock!” when explaining the proper roles of the federal government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.
“The legislative branch is supposed to be the center of our politics,” Sasse said, while admonishing his colleagues during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing Tuesday.
“For the last century, and increasing by the decade right now, more and more legislative authority is delegated to the executive branch every year. Both parties do it. The Legislature is impotent,” he said.
Sasse explained how members of Congress obsess with remaining in office. As such, they avoid governing. Instead, they empower secretaries and administrators of federal bureaucracies to enact and enforce “lawlike” regulations.
In doing this, Congress elevates the authority of the president, who appoints federal administrators, and the judicial branch.
“It’s a convenient way for legislators to avoid taking responsibility for controversial and often unpopular decisions. If your biggest long-term thought around here is your own incumbency, then giving away your power is a pretty good strategy. It’s not a very good life, but it’s a pretty good strategy for incumbency.
“There’s nobody in Nebraska, Minnesota, or Delaware, who elected the deputy assistant administrator of plant quarantine at the USDA,” Sasse said. “And yet if the assistant administrator of plant quarantine does something to make Nebraska farmers lives difficult, who do they protest to? Where do they go?”
“Almost all the power right now happens off-stage. The Supreme Court becomes our substitute political battleground. It’s only nine people. You can know them, demonize them, try to make them messiahs. But ultimately, because people can’t navigate through the bureaucracy, they turn to the Supreme Court looking for politics.”
“There is no verse of ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ that says give a whole bunch of power to the alphabet soup agencies and let them decide what the government’s decision should be for the people, because the people don’t have any way to fire the bureaucrats… What we mostly do around this body is not pass laws… That’s why there’s so many fights about the executive branch and the judiciary because this body rarely finishes its work.
“The solution is to restore a proper constitutional order with the balance of powers. We need ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ back. We need a Congress that writes laws and then stands before the people and suffers the consequences... We need an executive branch that has a humble view of its job as enforcing the law, not trying to write laws in the Congress’s absence. And we need a judiciary that tries to apply written laws to facts in cases that are actually before it.”
Sasse explained how the framers tried to insulate judges from politics.
“This is why they wear robes,” Sasse said. “This is why we shouldn’t talk about Republican and Democratic judges and justices. This is why we say justice is blind. This is why we give judges lifetime tenure.”
The only meaningful question for Kavanaugh should be this:
“Does he have the temperament and the character to take his policy views and his political preferences and put them in a box marked ‘irrelevant’ and set it aside every morning when he puts on the black robe. If you don’t think he does, vote no. But if you think he does, stop the charades,” Sasse implored.
Stop the games and lead. Govern, as the founders intended, and restore the balance of power that made this country great.
THE GAZETTE EDITORIAL BOARD