Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Re-Condification Committee

I was going through my usual morning preparations and thinking about congressional committees.  Other than the need to hold hearings and give speeches, these organizational groups have a specific purpose in general: to create laws and regulations on which Congress must then vote.

Furthermore, unlike the Executive branch, which was designed to function as a governor, an administration arm, and leadership on things of national interest; and the Judicial branch, which holds the power to strike down laws that violate the limits of the Constitution; the Legislative branch has a primary function of passing laws.  Their success is measured by what laws they pass, and what they bring home to their constituents in the way of pork, and by doing things for the folks back home.

As for the laws, they've been adding to them for almost 225 years.

Even the venerated School House Rock inadvertently sells the idea that is the problem here:

The specific reference is at :48: "Some folks back home decided they wanted a law passed, so they called their local congressman and he said 'you're right; there ought to be a law.'"

Now I know, that's the way it's supposed to work. But when the laws keep mounting up, and then don't get repealed, and get upheld in the courts, and continue to expand the size and scope of the government, and then end up becoming antiquated; it leaves us with a massive number of laws by which we can run afoul of the federal government, especially if it involves a bureaucracy that is created, or a politically-motivated witch hunt, or a ruling by activist judicial fiat.

This gave me the fermentings of an idea on par with the idea of the Tenth Amendment Commission, which has the explicit purpose of working to eliminate laws, regulations, and agencies that clearly exceed the original intent of the Constitution (which is a whole other topic).

The second inspiration, and the impetus to get the blog post rolling, was this report from Heritage entitled:
Rolling Back Red Tape: 20 Regulations to Eliminate
.  Once you get past Obamacare (entries 1-3), Dodd-frank and the Durbin Amendment (4-6), a few other things passed in the last few years, and some regulations handed down by unelected bureaucracies, and the source of the whole housing bubble, the Community Reinvestment Act, you come to; 18. FCC Merger Review Authority.

The key word in this one is "redundant."  As in the law might have served a purpose, but primarily it serves to make sure that competition is maintained, which is what the FTC does already under antitrust laws, which are much clearer and less fraught with political control of the media (which should be a no-no under one of those pesky Amendments).  And that, in essence, is what my idea is about:  Eliminating the redundancy, doublespeak, and patchwork nature of the thousand layers of laws made over centuries.

And that's why we need a Senate Re-codification Committee.

Now I say it should be a Senate committee for a specific reason.  This is not a committee that will be creating new laws for the most part.  Their job will be to re-write the entire United States Code.  As in every law in this country.  The Senate, as the "deliberative body," is best equipped to handle the task, as there would be much more continuity over the years of this gargantuan project.

Some ground rules:
  • The committee will take one section at a time, looking for things such as redundancy, lack of clarity, and irrelevance.  They will also consider things that are wholly a political insertion that serve no actual purpose. 
  • Any provision of the law that cannot be agreed upon (due to controversy) must be left as written.  This would require a 3/4 agreement on any changes in the committee.
  • The actual bill language will be divided into two (or possibly three) sections.
  • The first Section will begin with language along the lines of  "Sections x through y (with specific sections inserted) shall be wholly replaced with the following:".  The purpose of this is to avoid the patchwork nature of most bills in changing pieces of language, and to help make sure the contents are clear.
  • The second Section will detail those laws that, due to the rewrite, will be eliminated, in detail, and why they are being eliminated.
  • The third section, if necessary, will indicate any new law that is contained as a result of the rewrite.  Any new law should be based on the need to clarify something that has been settled in courts, or due to shaky language that already existed.  The specific goal, of course, is to reduce the number of laws, but one new law may be necessary to replace two unwieldy ones.
  • The bill will be brought up under special rules to minimize any debate or amendment, as that would be specifically counterproductive.
Now to be clear, this is to be a true bipartisan effort.  And it's not for showboating, scoring points, or getting shit for the folks back home.  That's the tendency we've been under since the country was formed.  And to get the monolith of government under control, this would be a simple (in theory, as it'll be a bitch in practice) way to begin paring away the layers of government that have collected like cobwebs on the periphery of American life.

And any senator that would embrace this and follow the spirit of the committee, regardless of party, would deserve support, and probably re-election.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Glorious accolades (for my ridiculously swollen ego)?

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