Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

The Confederate States of America are not generally looked to by Americans for guidance on how to best run a country. But they did have one good idea.

Their constitution prohibited laws that covered more than one subject.

Article I section viii 3:20. Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.

Such a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Constitution would fix a lot of recent problems.

Lately, the Republicans and Democrats constantly refuse to vote on proposed laws until they attach a totally different subject to it so you can only vote for or against both.

For example, as I write this, Democrats will not let Republicans vote on a law to suspend payroll taxes for the year 2012 unless they also vote to raise taxes on “the rich.” A great many Republicans promised not to vote to raise taxes so they cannot. That lets Democrats accuse the Republicans of being solely in the business of protecting Wall Street rich guys, which was the whole purpose of the exercise.

Then Republicans pass a bill in the branch they control, the House, that extends the payroll tax suspension to 2012, but forces the President to decide on the Keystone Pipeline. He recently said he would not decide it until after the election. So the Republicans know he will not sign the combination Keystone-payroll tax bill and the Democrats know the Republicans will not vote for the payroll tax suspension-raise taxes on “the rich.” Both sides get to yell at the other, which is all either cares about.

In the Confederacy, that tactic was banned by their constitution.

I wish it was here, too. Then, a bill like Keystone would get passed or rejected or vetoed on its merits, not as a result of logrolling and other irrelevant to the pipeline shenanigans.

There is NO, I repeat, NO, legitimate reason to combine different subjects into a single bill. Each separate subject should be voted on separately.

This trivial change in the U.S. Constitution would end a ton of the nonsense that makes people hate Congress. But most people are not even aware of the Confederate Constitution provision or that Congress combining subjects into one bill is nefarious.

They need to wise up. The absence of that Confederate Constitution provision in the U.S. Constitution is one of the ways that the two parties prevent the other from accomplishing anything in spite of having a majority.

At present, the Democrats control the Senate and White House and the Republicans, the House, but it’s not that simple. In fact, it is rare for all members of Congress to vote strict party lines. On most subjects, lots of members of Congress would cross the aisle and vote for a bill that is generally associated with the other party.

That means allowing only one-subject bills would end the practice of tying subjects together so the controlling party in the branch in question can falsely accuse the other of being against subject A, e.g., continuing the payroll tax holiday, when, in fact, they are voting against A because they were only allowed to vote on A after the other party combined it with a subject B, e.g., raising taxes in “the rich,” which the first party knows the other party promised not to vote for.

Parties use combining subjects to prevent bills from passing that would have passed if they only covered one subject. Both parties do it. Obama said he wanted a “clean bill” when raising the debt ceiling was first debated . A “clean bill” means a one-subject bill.

Combining subjects is a way of getting a lot of laws that could never pass on their own passed by hiding them in multi-subject bills. The notorious earmarks were the most egregious example of abuse of the ability to combine bills on different topics.

Simple change. I cannot imagine how anyone could say they oppose it for a good reason. Passing such an amendment to the Constitution would may Congress far less dysfunctional and far less able to pass stupid laws that few want.

Will it happen? It would if the public could vote on it, but you can only amend the Constitution by 3/4 of the state legislatures approving the amendment and the state legislators know well how they use multi-subject bills to give themselves more power to ignore the voters or sneak things past them.

Because the Constitution can only be amended by state legislatures, no amendment reducing legislative power will ever pass

I also favor creating national binding referendums and a grand jury Congress. These are obvious common sense solutions that would end Congressional gridlock and Congress’s crazy borrowing and spending, but Congress will never vote to reduce their power and neither will the state legislatures. So government of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians will continue forever.

John T. Reed