Search This Blog

Friday, December 28, 2012

Pledges, Promises, and Congress

Robert L. Reynolds, the CEO of Putnam Investments, writes at The Wall Street Journal that congressional deliberation has suffered from a proliferation of pledges. From the Taxpayer Protection Pledge on the right to the The Social Security Protectors' Pledge on the left, lawmakers are binding themselves that make it difficult to reason on the merits of policy.  Reynolds suggests what legislators should do instead:
Maybe we should ask them to reread their own oaths of office. Since 1884, every Senate and House member has sworn the same binding oath: "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic." Members further attest that they "take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion . . . So help me, God."

But what else are the many issues-based "pledges" that members have taken but a "mental reservation" or "evasion"? You can't be committed to support and defend the Constitution—except if that solemn duty might require a tax increase or a benefit cut to Social Security. If the plain language of the Congressional Oath of Office means anything, it means that no other pledge should ever be binding. Duty to the Constitution supersedes them all.

So let me urge every member of Congress to reclaim his freedom to do the people's business. Take the pledge to end all pledges: "My oath of office is the only pledge I'll ever make. Period." If enough of you could find the courage to say that—and come together across party lines—I think you'll feel a real sense of liberation. And "We, the People" will have your back.