On the Need for Dissent and Debate in These Urgent Times

Vote buttons in the House of Representatives. (Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images)

At the representative Tom Massie signals Last week, when he would ask for a vote on the $ 2 trillion plan to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, hell broke loose.

The congressman, whose libertarian stance has often made him a runaway in the House of Representatives, has been accused of making a minor claim that endangered the lives of colleagues who were recalled from their districts – in many cases by plane – to approve the measure. President Trump tweeted“Looks like a third-rate grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a congressman from a really great state, Kentucky, who wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers bill in Congress. He only wants advertising. He can’t stop it, just delay it, which is both dangerous and costly. ”

Trump’s solution? “Throw Massie out of the Republican Party!”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, said: “Latest news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. It must be quarantined to prevent its massive stupidity from spreading. He has given the term #Masshole a new meaning. (Finally something that the President and I can agree on!) ”

Massie had his defenderEven among those who weren’t on his side when the house turned down his appeal and approved the $ 2 trillion package in one vote. This is important because it is about more than the objection of a single member of Congress “I came here to make sure that our republic doesn’t die unanimously in an empty chamber. ”

This is about the need to keep the Congress fully operational as an independent and meaningful branch of government at this moment of national insecurity and need. This requires both technical and constitutional clarity.

The technical side is relatively simple. The House and the Senate must quickly reconstruct the Congress rules and procedures so that members can vote from home. Local governments across the country are already holding electronic meetings. “How can we insist that members fly to DC, which offers protection to push a button to vote?” asked representative Ro Khanna. His answer: “Congress can work remotely in emergencies.”

Khanna is right. For reasons of public health and representative democracy, Congress must: “Come into the 21st century.

The clarity of the constitution includes a deeper understanding that in such a consistent time, when fundamental decisions about our security and economy are made, we need more congress debates and measures – not less.

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