Sunday, October 25, 2009

More on reforming the senate

In an earlier post, I offered a plan to reform the U.S. Senate. I would like to modify and elaborate on that plan:
  1. On second thought, I would not like the Senate to be able to offer amendments to bills.
  2. The "suspensatory" veto would have to be "proactively" imposed by the Senate. (I normally dislike the word "proactive," but here it seems to fit.) The idea is, the bill would be presented to the President for his signature or veto ten days after the House of Representatives passes it. The Senate could expedite the process by approving it before the ten day period. Otherwise, it would have ten days to impose its suspensatory veto. After a period of time--say, 90 days, or 180 days--the House would be able to re-vote on the exact same bill, an up or down vote by a simple majority. If the bill then passes, it would be immediately presented to the president.
  3. I would like to expand the Senate's executive authority. In my original post, I suggested the Senate ought to have a right to vote "no confidence" in a cabinet member. Maybe it should have the power to vote "no confidence" against its president (i.e., the US vice president). Such a vote would not remove the vice president from office, but would forbid him or her from presiding over the senate and taking away his or her power to cast a deciding vote, in case of a tie, a vote which would nevertheless be less important now that the Senate would have only the power to "suspend" legislation.
  4. Maybe the Senate should have the right to veto executive orders. Under this plan, all executive orders would be presumed valid unless the Senate vetoes them.
  5. Whenever the President wants to commit the military to any overseas, combat action, he will have to get the approval of the Senate. If it is an emergency, or the president's commitment of military force requires secrecy (which militates against requiring prior approval), the President must make his case to the Senate within 90 days that he was justified in using military force, and the Senate must approve or disapprove the action. If the Senate disapproves the action, the House of Representatives may (but would not be required to) draft articles of impeachment, and the Senate would then "try" the impeachment, convicting by the requisite 2/3 vote standard. Under this scheme, unless the President has committed any other "high crime or misdemeanor," the President would not be able to be prosecuted in criminal court simply for committing troops improvidently.
  6. Senators could be recalled upon a petition signed by voters in a state. The petition would have to have a reasonably high number of signers to prevent spurious recall, say, 10% of the number of people who voted in the last Senatorial election. The goal here is to provide an additional check on the Senate and, indirectly, on the Presidency through the checks the Senate exercises on the President.

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