Given the trying times in which we live—often of our federal government’s own making—it is useful to remember the brilliance of the Framers of our Constitution in setting up the national government.
We remember the term “checks and balances” as being the primary way each of the three branches of our government checks and limits the reach and/or encroachments of the other two. We recall, for example, that all tax bills—i.e., bills for “raising revenue”—must originate in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Congress—possessed of this power of the purse—may decide to fund or not to fund presidential priorities. Congress also possesses the power to regulate commerce, including with foreign nations.
We also recall that the Congress is entrusted with the power to declare war and that Congress—by a 2/3rds vote—may also override a presidential veto. The Congress also has the authority to limit or expand the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower federal courts, and also the power to create lower federal courts when it deems it necessary.
These are obviously significant formal powers entrusted to the Congress. However, there is another source of authority the Congress possesses that is every bit as important as its legal and constitutional authority and that’s its moral authority.
As I alluded to above, there are many challenging national and international issues urgently at stake right now and national polling reflects the view of millions of Americans that the Biden Administration is flailing and failing in several respects. Within our system of checks and balances, Congress must step in and fill this policy and moral leadership gap.
John Adams, one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers, said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
While the president, as Commander in Chief, is entrusted with setting foreign policy for our nation, when he is tentative, weak, and lacking a moral compass, Congress should assert its own policy and moral authority. One clear and positive current example of the Congress doing just that involves the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Throughout the war, President Biden has been reluctant to do enough, quickly enough to assist Ukraine for fear of provoking a nuclear exchange with Russia. His frequent gaffes followed by his contrived angry denials and disavowals only make the delicate diplomatic effort more difficult. However, while experts say a nuclear incident is an unlikely scenario, what is an absolute certainty is that if Russia is not stopped it will devour Ukraine.
To this end, the Congress has continued to put significant bipartisan policy and moral pressure on the Biden Administration to provide more and heavier weapons and other military aid, better intelligence support, and stronger economic sanctions.
Allegedly to this end, on March 8, 2022, Biden announced a ban on Russian oil and other energy imports in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. But this was misleading given no ban on U.S. purchases of Russian energy occurs until 45 days from March 8, or roughly April 28. So, since March 8, the U.S. has bought roughly 672,000 barrels of oil per day from Russia, at a cost of roughly $100 barrel, or nearly $70 million per day. By the time the 45 days has run, and America finally stops buying Russian oil, Biden will have sent over $3 billion in U.S. dollars to fund Russia’s war machine.
Given America’s abundant supply of energy that Biden rejects due to his religious fanaticism over the climate, this is shameful and scandalous and must stop today. We need a president with a functional policy and a moral compass who will reassert America’s energy and moral independence.
The Wall Street Journal noted this week that “the world is entering the most dangerous period since the Soviet Union collapsed, and perhaps since the 1930s. The Covid crisis obscured the trend, but the dangers have become obvious as adversaries have reacted to what they perceive to be the American decline, division, and weakness at the root of the Afghanistan debacle.” (WSJ, 3-28-22).
The bi-partisan initiative Congress is demonstrating regarding the Ukraine-Russian conflict will need to be replicated several more times in the near future if America hopes to again project strength, power and moral authority to the world while also checking the aggressions of the very worst of the world’s bad actors.
Royal Alexander is a Shreveport attorney