Evan Vucci, AP
President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., attend the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, May 15.

Like it or not (usually not), what happens in Washington, D.C., impacts Utahns. Several political issues are percolating at the nation’s capital with ramifications for the country and our state.

Sen. Mike Lee believes the executive branch of the federal government has usurped authority of the legislative branch and he wants to restore a better balance. Should Utahns care, and can he be successful?

Pignanelli: "One can drain the swamp all they want, but plenty of alligators and mosquitoes will remain.” — Mark Golding

Along with many who interact with the federal government, I am often frustrated with administrative overreach without direct congressional supervision. Some ascribe darker conspiratorial characterizations of these bureaucrats (i.e. Deep State). I prefer a more technical description … “The Three Stooges” — well intentioned, clumsy and unattached to reality.

Lee recently released "Our Lost Declaration, America's Fight Against Tyranny From King George to the Deep State.” (Lee always provides interesting historical contexts to constitutional principles. I recommend his books.) Although our nation was founded in reaction to royal “executive overreach,” Lee articulates that Congress and the states transferred too much power to the executive branch.

Utah’s economy is based upon technology, financial services, medical advancements, trade, etc. All these activities are heavily regulated by the federal government and Utahns must have more than a philosophical interest in this issue. Unfortunately, concerns with overzealous federal bureaucrats and presidential executive orders are usually flavored Republican. But many traditional Democrat causes are stymied by these actions. The controversy needs to be re-messaged as a fundamental American challenge, not some partisan cause.

Whether one views executive usurpation as demonic or slapstick comedy, a solution is achievable only with an inclusionary, intelligent effort.

Webb: Lee is correct that congressional power has been eroded by the imperial presidency and the overbearing federal bureaucracy, which often amplifies or distorts laws passed by Congress.

Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both bypassed Congress on numerous controversial topics, issuing executive orders to further their agendas.

But much of this is Congress’ own fault. Partisan gridlock has rendered Congress dysfunctional on most difficult issues. Congress would easily have more clout if it would only act to solve the nation’s problems. A Congress that can actually pass critical legislation could quash the power of the bureaucracy and temper presidential ambitions. If Congress can’t pass meaningful immigration reform, one can hardly blame the president for acting unilaterally.

Is congressional gridlock and the inability of Congress to solve the country’s most critical problems a structural problem, or do we just need to elect better representatives and senators?

Pignanelli: When describing Washington, D.C., chaos, the media usually blames politicians. Officials blame lobbyists. The lobbyists blame special interest groups. These activists blame each other. Everyone blames social media and cable news.

No group of citizens has better access to information about their elected officials than 21st century Americans. The internet assisted the current dysfunction but also provides the cure. Voters utilizing unprecedented opportunities to research officials and candidates, while gathering news from multiple sources (and not a singular program), will be the catalyst for better behavior in Washington.

Webb: Congressional gridlock is a structural problem on two fronts: First, the federal government has nationalized every program and problem in the country, thinking it has the ability to solve them. It doesn’t, and never will. A structural fix is required giving states the ability to push back against federal encroachment. Most problems are better solved at state and local levels.

The second structural problem is the filibuster rule in the Senate, which effectively means a 60-vote supermajority is required to pass important legislation and solve problems. The House, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats, has been able to pass big bills, only to see them die in the Senate. Some people think this is healthy. I don’t. We’ll never get control of federal spending or pass comprehensive immigration reform if 60 Senate votes are required. I would rather risk the Senate being too rash than to never solve problems.

Congressman Chris Stewart has come under harsh criticism for defending Trump against accusations of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice. Is this helpful for hurtful for Stewart as he looks to re-election in 2020?

Pignanelli: The many candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination all voice the same conclusion — few voters care about collusion and impeachment. Stewart, and other incumbents, are more likely to encounter questions of Congressional actions to prevent further Russian interference.

15 comments on this story

Webb: Republican members of Congress who want to be relevant need to have a good relationship with the president. Besides, Stewart is right to question the motives and origins of the two-year, $30 million investigation of Trump that ultimately cleared him of collusion and didn’t charge him with obstruction of justice.

To his credit, Attorney General William Barr has launched investigations into the investigators. The email threads of top FBI and Justice Department officials show they hated Trump and were trying to destroy him. Ample reason exists to look into the origins of this investigation that hobbled a presidency for two years.

Stewart is right to defend Trump on specious charges.