When the Founding Fathers issued the Declaration of Independence, they proclaimed: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, have made it clear that they are willing to operate without such authority in order to pass their “cap-and-trade” energy-tax legislation. For the sake of our representative government, they must be stopped.
On Nov. 2, the American people will give their consent to the candidates whose legislative agenda they support. Based on the discontent throughout the country, both sides of the aisle think the upcoming midterm elections will reduce the size of the current Democratic congressional majority. A widespread loss of Democratic seats would be an unmistakable condemnation of the far-left legislative agenda being pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Obama administration.
Incredibly, this forecasted repudiation of big government could be greeted by ousted politicians with a repudiation of voter intent. After the election, but before the newly elected Congress is sworn in in January, the current Congress may call a lame-duck session in November and December. During this session, congressmen and senators removed from power may still vote to enact new legislation. Some Democrats already are talking about their plans to exploit this session to address unpopular issues.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman have been particularly unabashed about their hopes to advance the cap-and-trade bill in a lame-duck session where defeated congressmen and senators would be estranged from the will of people. This bill - which intentionally would raise the cost of energy produced by fossil fuels so we would use less of it - has not had enough support to pass. In fact, the bill was shelved recently by Mr. Reid, who clearly stated, “We know we don’t have the votes.” They don’t have the votes because congressmen do not want to vote for another expensive, unpopular bill just before a highly contested election. Of course, those congressmen who lose their election will no longer be accountable to the people in a lame-duck session.
Mr. Lieberman admits that “there is a certain awkwardness in a lame-duck session. But these are big and important issues. …” Perhaps it is the opening words of the Constitution are the cause of that “certain awkwardness.”
“We the People” speak with our votes and already have spoken out resoundingly against this energy agenda. If those who support cap-and-trade are voted out of office, Mr. Lieberman and his colleagues should respect that message. Mr. Lieberman’s willingness to skirt the democratic system because he thinks a bill is “big and important” epitomizes the mentality that has taken root in Washington. Such boundless arrogance from legislators who think their personal opinion reigns is exactly why there is such bipartisan outrage directed at the political class.
Mr. Lieberman’s co-crusader for cap-and-trade, Mr. Kerry, doesn’t even offer the caveat about the awkwardness of exploiting the session: “If it is after the election, it may well be that some members are free and liberated and feeling that they can take a risk or do something.” Mr. Kerry is celebrating the fact that lawmakers will have a chance to be liberated from the restraints of the people, an elitist sentiment that is repulsive to American ideals. This is the exact opposite of how our elected representatives should respond to election results that tell them we dislike their agenda. Rather than hope his colleagues take “risks” they refused to take while still accountable to the people, he should hope they would gracefully accept the message.
The current administration has continued to push unpopular legislation despite the groundswell of opposition throughout the country expressed in rallies, town halls, polls and primaries, but a lame-duck session would take the dismissal of the Tea Party activism to a whole new level. It threatens to view voting itself as an “artificial” constraint on the Obama agenda and sends a message that “We the People” do not have a voice in government. If a bill cannot pass before November, it would be a disgrace to the democratic process to enact it post-election.
According to a Rasmussen poll, 65 percent of voters oppose a lame-duck session because it would trample on our founding documents, mute the voice of the people and disregard the final results of the November election. Once the election results come in, congressional leaders should act with the dignity their office demands and refuse to pass controversial legislation until the new Congress is sworn in next January.
Matt Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks and author, with Dick Armey, of “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto” (William Morrow, 2010).