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AS AMERICANS GROW RESTLESS, THE POLITICAL CLASS IS TRYING EVADE ACCOUNTABILITY

By Peter RoffNewsweek

The COVID-19 crisis has taken America to places no one thought possible. The social lockdown ordered by so many governors to “flatten the curve” has turned into a kind of soft repression threatening the free exercise of rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution.

That’s not a popular opinion or one that’s readily accepted by those who influence what the average American thinks day by day. Those in positions to filter the flow of information before it reaches the masses have people so concerned about the possibility of dying of coronavirus, they’ve forgotten there’s more to life than just being alive.

Think back to the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson didn’t cite “life” as our only unalienable right. He put “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness” alongside it, two things we’ve lost sight of as fear dominates our days and nights.

Consider how the goalposts have been moved regarding the need for us to self-quarantine. In the beginning, we were told it was to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus from overwhelming the nation’s health care system. Too many patients for the available supply of doctors, nurses, hospital beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment would be catastrophic, it was explained, leaving most of us willing, in the beginning anyway, to go along with what the public health experts were advising.Ads by scrollerads.com

They may have been right—but there’s still much we don’t know. We don’t know how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 or how many have built up antibodies and immunities. We don’t know the full range of risk factors to determine who is vulnerable. We don’t know exactly how many people who contract it can be expected to die. And we don’t know if nature is building up herd immunity, the strength or duration of immunity or if the mitigation efforts have been successful. Nonetheless, the curve appears to be flattening in many states.

That should be good news. But rather than see it as a reason to open up the national marketplace, health experts and some politicians are arguing that the United States should not reopen until testing and tracing procedures are much more widespread and that a return to normalcy won’t be possible until a vaccine is available.

That’s a recipe for disaster. The need to return to something resembling regular order is obvious. Americans are getting restless. They’re beginning to think about their “liberty” and their ability to pursue “happiness” in the same breath as their right to “life.” The salve coming from Washington in the form of trillions of dollars in aid, whose economic impact remains questionable, isn’t pacifying anybody.

The political class is responding with efforts to evade accountability. Credit Republican Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky for trying to force a recorded vote on the $2.5 trillion CARES Act in the House of the Representatives. His effort was blocked by lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle, who wanted the bill passed with no fingerprints on it and to stay out of town. That’s outrageous, but not as much as the push by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the Democratic caucus to set up a system allowing proxy voting on legislation before the House of Representatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

That idea has been blocked, at least for now, by Republican opposition. Pelosi’s too smart to attempt a change in the rules that profound without getting buy-in from the opposition because she recognizes how much it would change the institution over which she presides.

Allowing proxy voting on legislation could destroy accountability among members of Congress. We don’t expect much of our representatives, not really. The old saying attributed to Woody Allen that 90 percent of the job is just showing up comes to mind. Just be there most of the time, vote when called upon to do so and issue a press release once in a while so we know you’re there, and the American people will vote to re-elect you better than 90 percent of the time every two years.

What the Democrats want—and are pursuing in the name of crisis preparedness—would allow a few members to control everything that happens in the U.S. House. The leadership could keep votes in their pocket for when they were needed, in effect nullifying the impact of any petition the people may make to those whom we vote to put in office. Proxy voting could lead to a concentration of power that would make the House more like the Senate, which the founders specifically didn’t want.

Like the economy, we should want the government to be transparent and open. Voting by proxy, which would soon become the norm once Congress goes over the top of that slippery slope, would be a step toward autocracy and away from self-government. It’s an idea that should be allowed to die a quiet death.


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