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Hoekstra: Enact Law to Recall Federal Officials

By Rep. Pete Hoekstra   |   Wednesday, 17 Mar 2010 03:48 PM

Earlier this year the people of Massachusetts stormed the castle of the political elite and toppled it to the ground. After months of abuse, neglect and being shut out of the lofty parapets of the U.S. Senate, they took a stand and sent a strong, undeniable message to the Democrat-controlled “Castle” of American politics.

Enough is Enough.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who should have been the chief target of voter anger, purchased Senator Ben Nelson’s vote for healthcare “reform” with a sweetheart “Cornhusker Kickback.” Perhaps they were angry over the outrageous “Louisiana Purchase” to buy Senator Mary Landrieu’s vote for the Washington Takeover of healthcare. Maybe it was the deal to pardon unions from a tax on their health care plans.

Editor's Note: Watch the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview with Rep. Pete Hoekstra Here

But regardless of the cause, the result was clear. The voters of Massachusetts did something truly extraordinary in a political world that has become ever jaded, ever-unaccountable, and ever resistant to true change. They ended the 31-year reign of all-Democratic Senators in Massachusetts, a space on the electoral map usually reserved for only the darkest shades of blue. In doing so, they sent a clear message: you cannot ignore the will of the people without consequences.

As the health care debate progressed last year, American citizens increasingly discovered their voices were being shut out. They felt quarantined from the real negotiations, which proceeded behind closed doors… in the dark… and only between the leaders of the left and lefter wings of the Democratic Party. Americans were no longer welcome to the table when it came to decisions about their own tax dollars, economy or health care. They were no longer the silent majority -- many were anything but silent – instead, they were the ignored majority. Often they asked what they could do to determine their own political destiny, and the most common refrain became “we in Washington will decide what’s best for you.”

For far too long, individual voices have been drowned out by the noise of Washington sound bytes. Our system of government does not merely allow for citizen participation – it depends upon it. To this end, I introduced a Voters’ Bill of Rights legislative package that provides voters the ability to recall members of Congress.

The health care debate clearly demonstrated that even the most universally disliked and disagreeable decisions made in Congress, like the “Cornhusker Kickback,” occur with virtually zero oversight or accountability. The lack of accountability isn’t restricted to issues as high-profile as healthcare legislation – it has become par for the course in Washington. Political paybacks, rather than policy or principle, are the exception and not the rule in Washington.

The concept behind H.J.Res.71 is simple. When elected officials lose the support of the governed, they can be held accountable.

It is a tool that should be used infrequently, but it is a tool that should be available. Recall is currently available in 18 states – but only for state officials, not federal ones. Even at the state level, it is often ignored. In a modern political era dominated by irresponsible politicians (Rod Blagojevichs comes to mind) only one governor, Gray Davis of California, has ever been held accountable and recalled.

What happened in Massachusetts was effectively a recall election. Imagine how different the healthcare debate would have been if every American had the opportunity to recall their member of Congress. Some of my Democratic colleagues might even have shown up for town hall meetings last August!

A recall is, to opponents, the nuclear option of American democracy, but many in Michigan and across America felt that exact sense of desperation during the health care debate. They didn’t simply see Congress moving in a direction they could support – because they were left out of the process. They saw Congress legislating in private, and realized such negotiations would impact not only their physical health, but the health of our nation’s economy.

The desperation resulting from this callous disregard for the voice of the citizenry manifested itself in many ways. Citizens who had no other options stormed Congressional offices by phone and e-mail and, if they could, town hall forums. People went from focused to frustrated and vilified – all because nobody was listening. Well, I’m listening, and so should my colleagues.

My bill calls for a federal constitutional amendment, but federal recall may even be possible at the state level as well. Many experts have expressed the opinion that individual state legislated recall measures may pass constitutional muster because it deals with election law, clearly within the domain of state jurisdiction. Today, I advocate that our state of Michigan be at the forefront of exploring state-level, federal recall.

The bottom line is this: When Congress has the hubris to ignore American desires and opinions, Americans must have the right to regain the voice that they deserve. Congress needs to give Americans the power to regain their voice in the political debate and truly participate in a Democratic process that’s currently ensconced in the walls of an Ivory Castle. It is time to storm the castle, tear down the barriers and restore the democratic ideals upon which our nation was built.

Editor's Note: Watch the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview with Rep. Pete Hoekstra Here

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