Don Stratton: A threat to democracy? Really?

The recent election of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House of Representatives brought out the use of the latest buzz phrase for the left; it seems that just about anything done by anyone other than Democrats is now called a “threat to democracy.”

We first saw this phrase used after the Jan. 6 demonstrations, where a group of unarmed trespassers wandered around the U.S. Capitol building, mostly taking selfies to show that they had been there. They were wrong, they were in violation of the law, and they had no business being there, but they were hardly a threat to the country or its form of government.

The latest threat to democracy being decried by the left and their complicit media arm is the series of stipulations forced upon the new speaker by a group of conservative Republicans before they would agree to vote for him. Anyone taking the time to read the list of demands made by these “radicals” would have a hard time finding anything in them that threatens anything but the way things have been done in Congress for far too long.

Much of the list of the alleged threats are simple rule changes that insure more transparency to what the House does. For example, legislative documents must be made electronically available to the public, and all votes of the House Rules Committee must be made public. Additionally, any charges or indictment of members of Congress must be reported by the House Ethics Committee within 30 days, and the general public must be allowed to make ethics complaints against House members.

Many of the demands are designed to try to put a stop to runaway government spending. For example, the national debt can only be increased with specific legislation to do so, and debt limit increases cannot be tacked on to other legislation. New appropriations must be subject to limits on spending increases, and the House cannot pass any new spending without corresponding reductions in existing spending. Additionally, any new legislation must be accompanied by an estimate of its economic effects.

Several of the stipulations deal with the way the House conducts business, which has been a questionable area for some time. In order to eliminate the “now that this legislation has passed, we will have to read it to find out what’s in it” philosophy that the House has been operating under, House members must have at least 72 hours to examine any new legislation before a vote can be held. Additionally, votes can no longer be called less than two minutes apart, and members must be notified of any votes to be held in rapid succession.

Possibly one of the most important stipulations is that any bills to increase taxes will require a three-fifths supermajority vote.

The list also calls for a subcommittee to be formed to investigate the government’s handling of the Coronavirus epidemic.

If you can see anything in the above stipulations that threatens our democracy, then your vision differs greatly from mine, which still tests at 20/20. The list appears to include only one provision that might cause a problem for the smooth operation of government — the stipulation that any House member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. Opponents of it believe that it may cripple the House by creating constant battles over removal of the speaker simply because one member has a disagreement.

On the other hand, easier removal of the speaker might have been a good thing for the country during the iron-fisted reign of Nancy Pelosi, who rarely let anything sensible come to a vote.

Regardless of the outcome, the words of 19th century lawyer Gideon John Tucker will probably still be true: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”