When lawmakers in Washington consider introducing new legislation, they typically do not have the luxury of what the software industry calls beta testing which involves sending a new product outside the company for real-world exposure to determine if it is viable for public consumption. However, since extremist conservatives swept into power in several states, Congressional Republicans have paid close attention to tactics and new laws Republicans enacted in state legislatures as a form of beta testing before introducing similar measures in Congress that affect the entire nation. Of course, there are precious few, if any, Republican-sponsored legislation at the state level that do anything beneficial for the people due to the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their fill-in templates that take rights from the people.
Since the House controls the nation’s purse strings, they have followed the lead of Republicans in states slashing programs for the poor, but they have run into a brick wall in the Democratically controlled Senate. Still, it did not stop them from an exceptionally cruel and inhumane move to eliminate funding for SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill they claimed was prohibitively expensive and extraneous. However, they did find enough money to provide subsidies for corporate agriculture following state level Republicans cutting safety nets and education to give corporations and the rich new tax cuts. In the Senate, Republicans aligned with teabaggers are following Texas and Florida to take rights away from the people. It did not take long for Marco Rubio (TB-FL) to announce his intent to introduce a 20-week abortion ban within days of nearly identical legislation enacted and signed into law by Texas Governor Rick Perry, and now 36 Republicans have signed on to pass legislation recently signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
In June, at the urging of large corporate employers, the Republican House Majority leader and active ALEC member Steve Precourt provided a template the Florida legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed making it illegal to pass future legislation to provide paid sick leave to employees. The pre-emptive law was written by ALEC and supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Florida’s largest corporate employers. Doubtless a new bill introduced in the Senate on Wednesday will have the same level of support from big business and their lobbyists. The new measure was introduced by Republican senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that makes it virtually impossible for Congress to pass any legislation to improve working conditions or regulate the workplace. Apparently, seeing ALEC’s success in Florida emboldened 36 members of the Republican caucus in the Senate to sign on to a national measure to preemptively prohibit future legislation corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, and ALEC will object to and goes far beyond just banning future legislation for paid sick leave.
The proposed legislation is a death knell for any future attempt to raise the minimum wage, prohibit employers from firing workers because they are gay, or protecting women from sexual harassment from their superiors. The bill will also permanently establish anti-worker decisions by the conservative High Court and disallow Congress from reworking worker protections to accommodate an unfavorable worker rights decision. Coburn and Paul are attempting to restore the constitutional regime that at one time prohibited child labor laws, overtime pay, and other national regulations that protected workers. Allegedly the bill cannot be applied retroactively to existing labor laws, but it does allow procedural objections to be raised against any new legislation that does not comply with the limits imposed by the bill. The bill’s typically teabagger and libertarian intent is to neuter the federal government and bring it in line with a long-discarded vision of the Constitution outlining Congress’ specific powers and requiring all federal laws to be specifically enumerated in the Constitution. In fact, Coburn and Paul labeled the bill the “Enumerated Powers Act of 2013” and it requires “a concise explanation of the specific authority in the Constitution that is the basis for its enactment.” The legislation is a prelude to Republicans abolishing Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, public education, and of course worker protections like minimum wage, child labor laws, and overtime pay that Republicans claim are not specifically written in the Constitution and thus are unconstitutional in their libertarian minds.
The idea of eliminating laws that protect Americans is the new standard for Republicans, so it is little surprise they support a law preemptively banning new legislation not enumerated in the Constitution. Two weeks ago House Speaker John Boehner claimed Republicans would be judged favorably by the number of laws they repeal, and coupled with their refusal to pass any meaningful legislation over the past two-and-a-half years, the Senate proposal goes a long way towards making the government ineffective in serving the people; especially working Americans. Republicans have sought myriad ways to eliminate worker protections since the New Deal, but they have increased their attacks since 2011 as twelve governors have signed preemptive laws banning future legislation that benefits workers. The Coburn and Paul bill will make the practice universally applicable in all 50 states and is a disaster for working Americans in any and every industry.
There is little argument from thinking Americans that Republicans will make any attempt to take worker protections away from the people to enrich their corporate donors, but the bigger implication is their drive to neuter the government to fit their libertarian vision of America. The idea that Congress is prohibited from passing any legislation that is not specifically noted in the Constitution effectively eliminates most federal laws, and it is curious if Republicans will also apply the “enumerated powers” principle to laws they favor such as those taking away a woman’s right to choose her reproductive health, oil subsidies, faith-based initiatives, or congressional representatives getting free healthcare, travel allowances, or a handsome pension.
Republicans are on a tear to disable the federal government’s ability to serve the people much like Republican-controlled states like Michigan where the governor appointed minor dictators to replace elected city representatives and became a law unto themselves. It is beyond the pale that in a representative democracy, a major party is passing, or attempting to pass, legislation prohibiting future legislation, but after seeing the success in several Republican states, 36 Senate Republicans are doing just that and it reveals their goal of completely neutering the federal government and limiting it to precise wording in the Constitution that effectively means no law is legal; it is a path to every libertarian’s goal of total anarchy.
If Americans thought for a second that Republicans could not possibly get any worse, the Coburn-Paul enumerated powers act is proof that their war on Washington is indeed a war against America, and although they are only copying state laws targeting worker rights today, they have a rash of Republican-controlled state laws to copy and with Republican assaults on women’s rights, voting rights, and freedom from religion rights it is just a matter of time before the entire country will fall victim to the devastation in states like Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, and Michigan. The most frightening aspect is that any attempt by voters to change Draconian laws is being eliminated because it will not be long before congressional Republicans attempt to pass a law preemptively banning free and fair elections after state level Republicans repeal laws allowing the people to vote. It is not an exaggeration because remember; John Boehner said Republicans would be remembered by how many laws they repeal and after forty attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have to be taken seriously.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.