Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Magical Invention of Procedure


I'm still seeing a bunch of talk (not "argument," which presupposes a basis for arguing) about impeachment process.

That includes people talking as if it's "obvious" that the House of Representatives hasn't done something until and unless it "transmits" or "delivers" or "presents" or whatever that thing is to the Senate. In fact, one guy explained to me that the Constitution "clearly states" so.

It doesn't.

How do we know when the House (or the Senate) has officially "acted," and how do those two respective bodies officially know when each other have acted? The only real clue in the Constitution is in Article I, Section 5:

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Yes, there are channels of official communication that are neither spelled out in, nor required by, the Constitution, such as "conference committees" to get the two houses on the same page vis a vis bills and so forth. But those channels aren't required to validate, nor would their non-use void, an act of either house. If it's in the body's journal, it happened.

I can only find one institution to which congressional actions must constitutionally be "presented," and that's in Article I, Section 7:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States .... Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States ...

Emphases mine.

Impeachment does not require the concurrence of the Senate and the House -- the Constitution gives the House sole power of impeachment.

Nor, impeachment being a resolution action rather than the making of the law, does it have to be "presented" to the president.

And yet millions of Americans seem to have pulled up a false memory from high school civics class of a required process of "transmission" under which, unless Nancy Pelosi stands outside the Senate chamber barefoot, quoting the Bhagavad-Gita and accompanied by monks singing Gregorian chants, the House hasn't "officially" acted.

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