Think About It: Power circuits interrupt us

Poor president. He’s having a hard time getting his way. He’s having to work the angles extra hard to find a way through this thorny business of equal branches of government. I think we can forgive his confusion since being thwarted by either the House or Senate wasn’t a problem the first two years of his presidency.

Most of us thought President Trump would have a steep learning curve. He was, after all, new to government. Being new was one of the reasons many people voted for him; they wanted and voted for change from the gridlock and inertia that seemed to be plaguing legislative progress in any direction. His supporters also liked the idea that he was from the business world. I heard it as a call for decisive leadership that resulted in less change for some and more change for others.

Trump business, aka U.S.A.

What’s befuddled most of us is that President Trump made no attempt to learn and work within the Constitution. Rather, he continued to run the government the way he ran his business. If the first attempt doesn’t work, try another way. If it fails, circumvent or do it anyway and prepare to be sued.

We learned that he doesn’t use data in managing his business; instead, he relies on his gut to make important decisions.

Here’s where I think it got the messiest for poor President Trump. He also expected to have ultimate authority to decide policy and the fate of the country and unquestioned loyalty from all departments and Congress.

President Trump could do that in his business. He was accountable to no one, no governing board and no equal branches of authority. I don’t know that he had a Trump, Inc., policy manual, let alone something like the Constitution of the United States.

Take the current example of calling a national emergency proclaiming, “I don’t need to do this now (except) I want it done faster.” He will simply take allocated money and reallocate it. He likes simple.

Meanwhile, the equal branches of the House and Senate have been hoisted with their own petards. They passed a vague law allowing the president authority to call a national emergency without the approval of Congress. Very few legislators seem to approve of what the president did and may pass a bill of disapproval this week.

I wonder if anyone is thinking about fixing the law.

Congressional thoughts and prayers

A couple columns ago, I wrote about contacting our representative and senators proposing “a bill to make it illegal to arbitrarily force federal workers to work without pay under threat of termination without meeting specific criteria such as cyber-mayhem or foreign invasion that may warrant a citizen sacrifice of this scale.”

An excerpt from Sen. Patty Murray’s response received Feb. 4 – “Furthermore, it was a terribly irresponsible precedent to set: the president should never hold the American people hostage on a political whim or force government into chaos and dysfunction over a tantrum.”

Sen. Murray’s response went on to focus on the border needs.

An excerpt from Sen. Maria Cantwell’s response, received Feb. 4 – “Thankfully, furloughed federal workers are guaranteed to receive back pay due to S. 24, the Back Pay for Furloughed Employees Act, which I cosponsored and was signed into law on January 17, 2019.”

Sen. Cantwell’s response went on to focus on a bipartisan budget for 2019.

Sincere and right up there with “thoughts and prayers.” Where’s the action to get us out of these constant disruptions of democracy!?

Rep. Derek Kilmer was different. He reported involvement in substantial bills to protect the U.S. Coast Guard from future shutdowns and a bill that prohibited creditors from causing more harm to unpaid workers during a shutdown.

I support the act to fund the Coast Guard during a shutdown. The fact that any national defense agency would be shut down, furloughed or not paid is absurd and weakens our country. But why not protect all federal workers from arbitrary shutdowns and requirements to work without pay?

There should not be an emergency declaration or government shutdown unless there is a clear definable threat to our nation’s health and security. Good examples are natural disaster, disease epidemics, and invasions either on land, sea or cyberspace.

The representative and senators were articulate in disagreeing with the shutdown but not in getting to the core question around prevention of arbitrary use or abuse of power.

I am disappointed that Rep. Kilmer and the senators failed to address the specific role possibility of Congress to define “criteria” such as those mentioned above and/or document-able insufficient time to gather the will of Congress.

I can understand the nature of a general response, but I ask why our elected office holders are not talking about preventing arbitrary use and/or abuse of power.

I wrote as much to Rep. Kilmer. His office responded by directing me to a quote made by Kilmer on Feb. 15, denouncing the declaration.

“I strongly oppose President Trump’s plans to declare a national emergency and will work with our leaders in both parties to rein in the President’s abuse of authority. Declaring a national emergency is a violation of the spirit of the law and is contrary to our system of checks and balances.”

No sooner than the question of what next passed my lips, the House announced the filing of the resolution of disapproval of the president’s declaration of a national emergency, which proved to be more than the big yawn I thought it was.

Kilmer is one of 226 representatives who co-sponsored the House resolution of disapproval. Kilmer’s office says the resolution would “terminate the emergency declaration using the termination mechanism within the National Emergencies Act (NEA).”

I understand that if it passes the House and Senate with a veto-proof majority, the president will have to work another angle to pay for his wall.

Big “if” though, unless the Republicans find their constitutional soul to be more compelling than their political alliance with poor President Trump.

Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette. Cooper has lived in Sequim with her husband for nearly 20 years. Reach her at