America / Constitution / Culture / Gov. Officials / Politics / Presidency / U.S. Domestic Policy

Friends, Not Foes

In 1952, Justice Robert H. Jackson, in his opinion on Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v Sawyer, also known as the Steel Seizure Case, stated, “When the president acts pursuant to an express or an implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate” [1] This maxim encapsulates the core beliefs of the Founding Fathers when they established the three governmental branches.  Simply, Justice Jackson’s statement reinforces the commonly held belief that Congress and the President should work together for the good of the country, not for their own personal gains.

I firmly believe that it was never the intention of the Founding Fathers to create a system of government in which the degree of gridlock that plagues our government today could exist. Such gridlock, as is clearly evident, is beneficial to no one and currently has the country on the brink of going over the so-called fiscal cliff. In hindsight, it is easy to criticize the Founding Fathers for not having foreseen the potential for tremendous gridlock. After all, with powers divided between them, it only seems logical the three branches, particularly the legislative and executive branches, would strive to maximize their powers, explicit or otherwise. However, in my opinion, the Founding Fathers did intend for their to be a degree of resistance between the branches, highlighted by a political environment in which legitimate questioning over the actions taken by the branches could occur without it leading to hostility between them.

In such an environment, Congressional leadership and the executive branch could work together to solve the most pressing issues facing the country, both domestic and foreign. For instance, with the aforementioned fiscal cliff looming, cooperation and compromise between the branches is a necessity. Selfishness and loyalty to party ideology will threaten the economic future of the United States. In addition, cooperation and compromise is needed to formulate future strategies in dealing with Iran; in taking proper courses of action in the Syrian conflict; in reaching an environment in which climate change issues can be addressed and legislation developed; in finally developing sensible immigration reform; in dealing with the continuing rising economic threat of China; in strengthening our relationships with our allies while fostering or improving upon our relations with others, such as Russia; in reforming the tax code; in repairing and upgrading crumbling infrastructure while also building new infrastructure; in phasing out our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan while examining the capabilities of the military as whole going forward; and in reducing the political partisanship that grips our nation’s capital and drains the hope of bipartisan solutions for bipartisan problems.

The list of issues facing the United States is long and full of complicated issues, issues that require innovative thinking, decision decision-making, and leadership. If the United States is to make progress in addressing these issues, then President Barack Obama, Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell need to lead the way. The responsibility of stewardship does not fall entirely on their shoulders, as there are many other people and organizations involved in government, but these individuals possess the capability of directing the conversation and actions of the U.S. government in a positive direction.  If they strictly adhere to their party ideology, then there is little hope of cooperation and compromise. I am not suggesting either party’s leadership abandon or disregard their party’s ideology and principles, but I am saying that both sides need to realize the severity of the situation and be willing to sacrifice certain beliefs for the sake of the country.

With regards to the fiscal cliff specifically, a recent Gallup poll finds that most Americans believe Congress and the President should reach an agreement on the issue before the January 1st deadline. However, there is little faith this will occur.[2] Such a lack of faith is the result of decades of increasing political polarization and increasingly bitter interactions between the parties. If the previously mentioned leaders want a legacy, a legacy the history books will remember for its profound positive impact on the country, then reaching a compromise on the fiscal cliff is the first step. Though six decades ago, Justice Jackson’s statement still rings true today. The influence of the president and Congress will be enhanced if they work together. More importantly, the future of the country will be enhanced too.