We are a Representative Republic as our founding leaders intended. Much of what the office seekers say on the campaign trail is not within the office seekers ability to effect. However, in the election to Congress there is one primary question: which party boss are you supporting, Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner? It is going to be one of those two who puts people on committees and decides which legislation will or will not be considered.
In New Mexico that same question is central: which senate or house leader will you support? One person in each chamber decides the fate of bills. This last term in the New Mexico Legislature was run entirely by two men, Senator Michael Sanchez and House Speaker Ben Lujan.
In the New Mexico House one tactic of Speaker Ben Lujan was to put bills he did not support into committees where they never came out. Only one bill was heard in two years against the wishes of Ben Lujan but was then obliterated by Senator Sanchez who did not allow it to be heard in the New Mexico Senate.
In the New Mexico Senate nothing, and I do mean nothing, came off of Senator Sanchez’s desk unless he wished it off the desk. There is no “blast” legislation off of his desk like in the New Mexico House. He is the one and only arbiter.
When someone is elected to the New Mexico Senate the first and most important vote they take is for the Senate Majority leader. Voters need to ask: are you supporting Senator Michael Sanchez? Hint: they may answer, “Gosh, I just do not know” which is, “Of course,” said in a politically correct way.
Likewise, when Senator Harry Reid does not wish something heard in the U. S. Senate, it will not be heard. The most important question in the New Mexico Senate race: who are you voting for in the leadership?
All the talk about what bill will be sponsored, what legislation will be pushed is secondary to if the house and senate leaders allow it to be discussed. Do not get me wrong, there are many factors when electing people. Example: I like when we send anyone to office who served in the military. Not as a reward for service, rather, because we need those perspectives in a political climate increasingly unaware or hostile to the military.
There is an important political truth wall-learners in Washington and Santa Fe know: it does not matter what politicians say at home, it matters what the leadership tells them to do. Occasionally politicians can resist the leadership, but anyone not tuned to the leadership’s radio station may pay a heavy price.
Congressman Steve Pearce is a bit on the outs with Speaker Boehner over holding the line against making government bigger. Boehner has a thin majority in the House so cannot punish Pearce much. Years ago Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil was hard on those of his party who did not follow orders.
New Mexico State Representative Joe Cervantes challenged Ben Lujan for the leadership of the New Mexico House at the start of this last legislative session. Newly elected Republicans were suddenly faced with the breakaway. What to do? Any vote not for Cervantes was a vote for Lujan.
Many Republicans privately say it was their worse moment because they enabled Lujan to control redistricting. The choice of leadership is the core factor in every election. Afterwards the quality of the person impacts the legislature. It will not be much of an impact if the body is controlled by leaders like Sanchez and Lujan in this last session.
A vote for someone running for Congress or the New Mexico Legislature is a vote for their leadership. It would be nice if leadership of both parties allowed bills to be heard and voted on by the legislators.
Dr. Michael Swickard is co-host of radio talk show News New Mexico 6 to 9 a.m. Monday - Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org