Tag Archives: Joanne Freeman

What is the HEROES Bill?  How would it impact schools? Why hasn’t the bill passed in the Senate? [A Civics Lesson]

In May the Democratic-majority in the House of Representatives passed the HEROES bill, a $3 trillion (yes, a 3 with twelve zeros), a bill that included funding for schools and local and state governments

See a summary of the HEROES bill here.

See how the bill impacts New York State here and how bill impacts state and local government here.

Why did the bill originate in the House of Representatives?

Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires,

 “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”

The bill was sharply criticized by Republicans and the President and the Republican-controlled majority in the Senate took no action,

 President Trump sought to draw a hard line on the coronavirus relief bill saying it must include a payroll tax cut and liability protections for businesses, as legislators prepared to plunge into negotiation over unemployment benefits and other key provisions in upcoming days.”

 Why is there so much antagonism? So much partisanship? Why can’t Republicans and Democrats simply sit down and iron out there differences?

Our political system is based on factions, is based on a conflict of ideas, and the Constitution established two houses in the Congress, a President and a Judiciary, the three branches of government must come together to set policy, to make laws.

In September of 1787 the 54 members of the Constitutional Convention after five months of contentious debate agreed upon our constitution; a compromise between free and slave-holding states, large and small states and among geographic regions. The constitution contained ratification procedures, nine of the thirteen embryonic states had to approve the constitution.

Madison and Hamilton wrote eight-five essays, today we’d call them opinion pieces, op-eds, and, they were published in newspapers across the soon to be states, we call the essays The Federalist Papers.

Federalist # 10 could have been written last week, last year, a decade ago or a century ago,

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

 The words of Madison could just as well appear on today’s NY Times op ed page, “… more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good;” our forbearers created a system that was crafted to prevent a tyrant or a tyrannical group from seizing control of our government,

While the House passed the HEROES bill the Senate took no action; the rules of the Senate require a two-thirds vote (60 members to close debate and bring a bill to a vote: cloture.

Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?” And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn. (Rules of the Senate)

The “mutual animosities” are not only between Republicans and Democrats; there are animosities among Republicans and between the President and the Senate Republicans.

Hovering over the entire process is an economy tittering on an economic abyss and an election on November 3rd, the presidency, one-third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives.

Once again our founding fathers were prescient, Madison wrote, “the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property, has anything changed?

The lobbyists representing every conceivable industry, representing teacher unions, transit systems, the post office, the list is endless. The following is a section of a letter calling for aid to schools, who do think wrote it?

K – 12 Schools: A safe-reopening will require numerous operational modifications for schools, including health screening, testing, contact tracing, enhanced cleaning, and physical modifications. Schools did so substantial that teachers are receiving layoff notices even though social distancing guidelines would indicate that more teachers are needed in the school building, not fewer. Not only will this immediately impact reopening plans, but it can also affect learning over the long-term. As we learned from the Great Recession not budget for these expenses. At the same time, local education agencies face significant budget shortfalls as a result of the economic downturn. Some local deficits have been, it took years for education budgets to recover. It was not until the 2015-16 school year that per-pupil education spending returned to the 2008-09 level.

 Teacher unions?  School Boards?

How about the Chamber of Commerce!!  The organization representing businesses across the nation,

Read entire letter here.  Politics makes for strange bedfellows (and visa versa, that’s for another discussion)

The Democrats want to hold the line on their core issues in the bill, the Republicans have to satisfy their own members and the President.

Republicans and Democrats are musing: if a bill isn’t passed what will be fall-out? Who will the voters blame in November?  If we don’t pass a bill could the entire economy crash?

Federalists # 10 avers, The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government; we are watching the “ordinary operations of government,” the wheeling and dealing that used to go in the cloakrooms now is spun out across Twitter; each faction seeking an advantage, seeking to win over or tarnish this senator or house member.

Yale historian Joanne Freeman, in “Field of Blood,” writes,

“Between 1830 and 1860 …there were more than 70 violent incidents between congressmen in the House and Senate chambers or on nearby streets and dueling grounds, most of them long forgotten.” The wrong word could easily lead to a duel. See which words, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8XdN0MYBUI

Maybe we’re a bit more civilized than our predecessors, or, maybe not …