​Corker's No On Tax Reform & Madison's Defense Of the Senate

Senators have a lot of power, especially in a fairly evenly divided Senate, don’t they? And it is hard to know how much their decisions to vote up or down any given bill are based on the policy implications, and how much they may be based on personal interest or personal vendettas.

Was Senator McCain's no vote on repeal and replace merely because of this concern over due Senate process being followed? And candidate Trump's slurs of his character as a war prisoner who survived horrifying conditions had no bearing at all? Come on, give me a break.

So as Senator Corker - who has in the last few months gotten very nasty and personal with President Trump and has used Twitter to do so in brash imitation of the President himself - announces he's a no vote on Tax Reform due to fiscal concerns, one has to wonder, is this how the Senate was meant to work?

Perhaps it was, and the Twitter slugfest between Corker and Trump is more of a cultural commentary on the mores of our times. If so, then Corker feels free to say what many Senators might think about the growing debt now that he's leaving in about a year. But you have to think that he feels a little vengeful satisfaction over his announced vote. And we're still not even really sure of the reasons for the bad blood between Trump and Corker. Did Corker feel he should have been given a Cabinet spot? Is that what it's all about? Who knows?

So, again, is this how the Senate is supposed to work? Consider Madison's defense of the upper chamber in Federalist 62, where he asks:

What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government?

Yes, a chaotic, changing legislative environment is not good for business and the Senate is meant as a stabilizer in this sense. But ... The legislation at issue here is precisely one that will reduce the burden of taxation on commerce, manufacturing, farming and any other "establishment", and Senator Corker is possibly killing it off with his vote.

If the Senate is able to get to 51 despite Corker's no, and the Senator from Tennessee in the reconciliation process with the House then shows some flexibility in his somewhat new-found deficit hawkishness, then we can breath a sigh of relief and wonder at the mechanisms put in place by men like Madison. If the tax reform bill collapses like the repeal and replace effort, then we have a problem, or at least the GOP does.

It would be dangerous to demand wholesale reforms to the Senate if tax reform fails, but it would be healthy to demand wholesale changes of individual Senators. Oh right, Corker is already heading out the doors in 2018. Too bad he couldn't be voted out tomorrow. But that's not how the Senate works, is it?

Posted by Keeley at December 4, 2017 8:30 PM
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