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Friday, 01 April 2016 14:35

This just in blog: Maybe Americans prefer divided government?

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This just in blog, by Dan Plutchak, editor

As the presidential candidates crisscrossed Wisconsin this past week ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary, they’ve pitched all the things they would do as president.

But, as you head to the polls to vote, remember any president can do very little without the cooperation of Congress.

It’s the role of the House and Senate to pass legislation. The president’s only duty is to either approve the law with his or her signature, or reject it by veto.

When Donald Trump says he’ll force Mexico to pay for a wall between our two counties, or when Ted Cruz says he’ll step up policing in Muslim neighborhoods, it’s unclear what sort of legislation Congress could consider, making those campaign promises little more than talking points.

No matter who you vote for Tuesday, their proposals won’t go very far unless voters also pick a majority in the House of Representatives and at least 60 agreeable senators.

Consider just a sampling of plans by the presidential candidates:

Trump wants to build a bigger wall and have Mexico pay for it. Congress can’t pass a law to force payment, so as president, Trump has threatened Mexico with trade sanctions if it doesn’t pay. But neither a majority of Republicans nor Democrats likely would support sanctions and tariffs because of what the likely retaliation would do to the U.S. economy.

Cruz supports a flat tax, but Congress likely would not pass his proposal because it couldn’t agree on enough spending cuts to make it work without ballooning the deficit.

Kasich wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. It’s currently law of the land, and any president would need a majority of the House and 60 votes in the Senate to pass legislation repealing it.

Sanders supports moving to a single-payer, government-run health plan. It’s unlikely unless he gets a Democratic Congress and 60 Democrats in the Senate, all willing to vote for his plan.

Clinton proposes a path to citizenship for immigrants, but despite near universal agreement that our immigration system needs reform, there is little agreement, even within the parties, on what should be done.

President Barack Obama knew well how the system worked when he took office nearly eight years ago.

Why do you think Obama and the Democrats were in such a rush to pass the Affordable Health Care Act?

Democrats knew, just like the Republicans, that the Democrats could lose the house in two years (which they did), eliminating any chance for the legislation to pass.

And Democrats knew they would need every vote from their party.

Republicans still were miffed when President Bill Clinton called their bluff on welfare reform and supported the proposal that eventually passed.

They weren’t about to be tricked again by a Democratic president.

Obama softened many of his health care proposals early on to woo Republican votes, but to no avail.

Likewise, conservatives are upset because even after electing a Republican House in 2010 and gaining control of the Senate, nearly all the items on the conservative agenda have remained unfulfilled.

The same goes for Democrats frustrated in what they say is Obama’s lack of leadership in getting a more liberal agenda enacted.

Both scenarios ignore the constitutional reality that legislation needs the consent of the House, Senate and president. Without the approval of all three, a proposal isn’t going anywhere.

So keep this in mind when you go to vote.

If America once again chooses divided government in November, very little will get done.

On the other hand, maybe that’s the way Americans want it.

Dan Plutchak is the editor of CSI Media, publisher of the Janesville Messenger, Walworth County Sunday and the Stateline News. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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