Gazette opinion: What’s worse than the Do Nothing Congress?

2012-08-10T00:10:00Z Gazette opinion: What’s worse than the Do Nothing Congress? The Billings Gazette
August 10, 2012 12:10 am

In the month of August, the U.S. House was in session for three days before members and their Senate colleagues left the Capitol for five weeks of vacation. Here’s the rest of the year’s congressional work schedule:

  • Eight days in September.
  • Four days in October.
  • Eight days in November.
  • Nine days in December if they leave, as scheduled, 11 days before Christmas.

This skimpy work schedule might be justified if lawmakers had actually finished their work. But they have failed to complete the most important legislation, blown their own deadlines and kicked the budget can down the road so many times that party leaders are probably out shopping for new boots.

The list of legislation delayed, unfinished and in limbo is too long to print on this page. It includes Postal Service reform, a five-year farm bill, cybersecurity, expiring tax cuts, the sequester and the budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Before leaving Washington, D.C., party leaders worked out details of a continuing budget resolution they expect to pass in September. The measure would continue current levels of funding through March 31; it would not address the budget deficit, tax issues or make major policy changes.

If you doubt that the blame game has stymied statesmanship, consider the time clock displayed on the official U.S. House website provided by us taxpayers. “If the Senate does not act,” the website says, “the sequester will take effect in.” On Thursday, it read “145 days,” so many hours, minutes and seconds.

“Time since the House passed a solution 10 days,” the website said Thursday.

The Senate home page doesn’t slam the House, not yet anyway.

In 1948, President Harry Truman nicknamed the 80th Congress the “Do Nothing Congress.” Back then, the House and Senate managed to pass 908 laws.

Truman’s Congress worked at breakneck speed compared with today’s. So far, the 112th Congress has passed just 151 laws.

Small wonder that national polls give Congress a 17 percent approval rating.

Members of Congress ought to sweat out the summer in Washington, D.C. — like most of their constituents are sweating at work, in one of the hottest, driest summers ever.

Now that they’ve gone home, there’s no getting them back till after Labor Day. Then the House and Senate ought to change their fall schedule. Instead of campaigning for another term, let lawmakers finish the work of this term — even if that means staying in session till Election Day on Nov. 6.

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