The Senate Needs to do a 9th Step

Step Nine. The 9th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step support groups is familiar to anyone involved in recovery. It’s the step in which individuals recognize that their past behavior under the influence of addiction has caused harm to others; and that if they are to have any integrity in their recovery, they must do what they can to make amends, to make things right again. Here’s Step Nine in the words of AA:

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Step Nine of Alcoholics Anonymnous

The “such people” referred to in Step Nine are those mentioned in the previous Step Eight, “… a list of all persons we had harmed.”

What does this have to do with the Senate of today? Well, in 2016 Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senators did grave harm to the tradition of the US Senate, to the United States Constitution, and to the American People. McConnell and friends took great pride in blocking then-President Obama from fulfilling his Constitutional duty when they would not even consider Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by Obama to fill a recently vacated Supreme Court seat after the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia. None of this history is in doubt. Nor, in doubt, are the reasons McConnell took such action — to block a duly-elected President with 11 months left in his term from filling a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.

Instead of doing what they were supposed to do — and with 270 days before the upcoming presidential election — McConnell and Senate Republicans chose to leave the Supreme Court with just 8 Justices. McConnell’s choice to leave the Court with hands tied did not take long to have real life consequences. In March 2016, the Court handed down its first deadlocked 4-4 decision in the case of Hawkins vs Community Bank of Raymore.

The power to which McConnell and his senate colleagues are addicted is no less destructive than the substances of alcohol and heroin and crystal meth that can destroy not only brains and bodies, but also families, friendships, and the bonds of affection between fellow humans.

Does the sitting president have the right to nominate someone to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy upon the very recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Yes. When such a nomination is received, does the US Senate have a constitutional responsibility to act on that nomination as they give “advice and consent” to such presidential nominees? Yes, again.

But the issue, however, is that none of what is currently happening exists in a vacuum. There is one inescapable aspect in the situation described above — McConnell’s 2016 unprecedented attack on the authority not of the Presidency, but on the authority of one particular President, Barack Obama. That inescapable fact is that the actions of the Senate at that time did not just do harm, but did grave harm — harm for which amends must be made if they and the Senate, the Constitution, and the American People are to be made more whole once again.

If we as a nation are to return to a less-politicized notion of the Supreme Court — thinking of the Justices not as one writer put it as “politicians in black robes,” but rather as the (almost) final arbiters of Justice in our Constitutional democracy — then the Senate now must make amends. They must NOT take action on any nominee offered by the current president.

By not taking action now, Senators will demonstrate that they recognize that in 2016 their actions revealed just how drunk with power they were (and in many ways still are). By not taking action now and by waiting until the inauguration of a new president in 2021, they will tell the American People that they recognize they were wrong in 2016, and that they wish to make amends. By not taking action now, they will be telling the American People of today and future generations that they can put country over party, that they can put aside petty politics and do what is right.

Justice Ginsburg died just 47 days before the presidential election scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020. In fact, however, she died after voting in this election has already begun, given that several states began mail-in voting in early September. (See Then and Now: What McConnell, others said about Merrick Garland in 2016 vs. after Ginsburg’s death for a more complete timeline.)

If the Senate moves forward with a nominee that the current president seems intent on putting forth, they will show that not only are they still very drunk with power, but that the deadly effects of such addiction are affecting us all, and that — like most addicts in the midst of addiction — they don’t care about anyone or anything else, other than their next fix.

Not the Republican Party of Yesteryear

Most of us who are “of a certain age” know that the Republican Party of 2012 is very different than the one we saw in our formative years during the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s.  Although I’ve always had a sense of this — having grown up in Massachusetts where African American Ed Brooks, a Republican, was one of our Senators — but I probably couldn’t name the specifics behind this change.  This article in today’s Washington Post, GOP platform through the years shows party’s shift from moderate to conservative, helps fill in those blanks.

The full story is worth reading, but the graphic puts in in visual perspective.

 

Australian Gay Marriage Video

Guess I am a bit of a romantic, but I admit it … I did tear up when I saw this! How can anyone watch this video, produced by the Australian advocacy group, “GetUp! Action for Australia,” and not be moved?

To all  Catholic bishops around the world (including the Pope); all the Republican presidential candidates who have signed pledges in support of DOMA; Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, and other intellectually challenged supporters of NOM … how can you possibly watch this and fail to understand that support for civil (and yes, sacramental … but that’s another story) marriage will in no way harm either the marriages of heterosexuals or children?

This is about:

  1. accepting the fact that being gay is not a choice;
  2. recognizing that being gay is a natural part of the diversity with which humanity is so blessed; and
  3. deciding how to live faithfully and responsibly in light of the God-given realities of #1 # 2.

Stop Blaming “Washington”

“‘Earmarks are a symptom of wasteful Washington spending that the American people have said they want reformed,’ [Texas Republican Sen. John] Cornyn told reporters,” reports today’s Washington Post (Republican senators say they’ll vote against their own earmarks).

I know that when it’s used in this sense, “Washington” means so much more than the 68 square mile piece of land along the Potomac River and its 600,000 inhabitants. But as one of those inhabitants for over seventeen years, it irks me to no end that “Washington” as a word so often becomes politicians’ shorthand way of doing just what Sen. Cornyn did to describe all that is bad with federal government and politics.  The truth is, it’s not Washington that spends money or that imposes taxes or that sneaks earmarks into legislation.  No, it’s the very politicians from Texas and Florida and Kansas and South Dakota and every other state in the nation that sends Texans and Floridians and Kansans and South Dakotans to do these things. Instead of blaming “Washington” — whose citizens don’t even have the full representation that the citizens of these other states enjoy — why don’t these senators and representatives take responsibility for their own actions and simply replace “Washington” with “we” or “senators and representatives.” More honestly, Cornyn should have said, “Earmarks are a symptom of wasteful spending by me and my fellow senators…”

That would certainly be more accurate, though perhaps, like earmarks themselves, just a little too close to home.