The spectacle we’ve watched in respect to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court makes comments attributed to Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska exceedingly relevant. Sasse attributes a portion of the passion surrounding Supreme Court nominees to the distortion over the past several years in the role assigned to the court. His remarks are not complementary to the legislative body of which he is a member.

Sasse calls the hearing an ”overblown, politicized circus.” But he blames the overheated drama on a dysfunctional Congress. I think he makes a valid point.

Beginning in 2010, Congress seemed to simply stop functioning. Majority Leader Mitch McConnel defined the role of Congress as the denial of a second term to Barack Obama. Although he failed in that quest, his refusal to legislate did force the president into governing by administrative action. Such action then became reviewable by the courts to determine constitutionality.

In 2016, when Donald Trump became president, Democrats, although in the minority in both houses, have tried mightily to thwart the ability of Congress to enact the Trump agenda. Again, the president has attempted to work his will by administrative action. Again, the court is called upon to judge the appropriateness of the action in respect to the Constitution.

Sasse describes the inaction of Congress as a decision to “self-neuter.” He says that Supreme Court judges are now expected to be “super-legislators” which is a “misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court.” He criticizes Congress for “giving away its power” and making the Supreme Court “a substitute political battleground.”

He continues by saying “our political commentary talks about the Supreme Court like they are people wearing red and blue jerseys; that’s a very dangerous thing.”

The list of important current issues with which Congress has been unable to cope is indeed long. Immigration and healthcare would top the list. In spite of many honest attempts by grown-ups in Congress, the immigration issue has not been resolved. Consequently, Trump has pushed the constitutional limit time and again in his effort to curb both illegal and legal immigration. His efforts do not represent a majority position by either the country or the Congress, but legislative intransigence or ineptitude defeats any effort to resolve the issue. Compromise seems out of reach. So the Administration and the Supreme Court determine policy while the Congress stands on the sideline.

Health care seems like another area of concern. The President was unsuccessful in his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Consequently, he chips away at the program through executive direction. The Supreme Court will serve as the final arbiter of his action. The Congress wrings its hands, raises money for reelection and tries to convince the folks at home they’re actually managing the country.

Sasse describes it this way: “Most people here want their jobs more than they really want to do legislative work and so they punt most of their work to the next branch.” That is a searing indictment of the work being done by the current Congress. That is a dose of tough love.

“We badly need to restore the proper duties and the balance of power from our constitutional system.”

Sasse is a Republican so one would expect him to take the position that the left started the current fight over a Supreme Court nomination. But he blames both sides of the political aisle.

“I do think the left started this fight but I think both of these parties are really lame in teaching basic civics to our kids right now. People on both sides of the aisle regularly talk about the Supreme Court like these are Republican justices and Democratic justices,” Sasse said.

The policy stakes are exceedingly high in the current nomination fight. The position has long been held by a justice who occupied a swing-vote position. Kavanaugh is not expected to fill that role and the court is expected to tip noticeably to the right when he is confirmed. But the animus has been increased, first by the treatment Merrick Garland, an appointee of President Obama, received two years ago, and secondly by the extraordinary responsibility to “legislate” being accorded by a Congress which is abdicating its legislative responsibility.

It is interesting that we seem to agree that Congress is failing but we support our own legislators and reelect them again and again. We blame “those other guys.” And 49 other states do the same thing. It seems that until all of us demand, and support, better performance from our own representatives a change is not to be expected.

The comments of Sasse should be taken seriously. We need to restore balance among the three branches of government. Giving the Supreme Court the responsibility for determining policy by judging aggressive administrative action while the Congress stands idly by is not what our forefathers had in mind. Regardless of the sources of the problem, be they rules or tradition or simply the folks we’ve elected, we need a better Congress.

Jack Wempe grew up in the Hutchinson area and is a former educator, state legislator and member of the Kansas Board of Regents now living in Lyons. Email: jwempe1@yahoo.com.