Commentary by James H. Shott
The election last month, when voters sent dozens of incumbents packing and gave Republicans a gain of 63 seats in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate, was a strong repudiation of the elitism displayed by our Congress, particularly since 2008. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more than a few of their fellow travelers in Congress did not change their way of doing things.
Last week we saw a repeat of last year’s debacle over health care reform in which the aforementioned Congressional leaders pushed through a monstrous 2,300-page, secretly conceived bill that almost nobody had read and that the American people strongly opposed.
This time, Congress disserved us by producing a bill of 1,924 pages, but again no one had time to read it before the leadership wanted to act on it, and this one would have spent $1.2 trillion dollars that we don’t have with more than a smattering of pork greasing the skids toward Congressional approval.
Members were not the least bit hesitant to throw in billions of dollars of self-serving spending, much of which was political bribery to encourage other members to support a bill they otherwise might not support, and the rest to payoff votes in future elections.
For the first time in history our intrepid leaders have failed to pass a single appropriations bill all year, and with time running out before the government would have to shut down, they decided to combine 12 separate bills into one omnibus measure.
Predictably, Harry Reid praised the spending bill as “a very good piece of legislation.” And if your goal is to turn your country into Greece, he was exactly right.
A Gallup poll last week showed Congressional approval has dropped to its lowest point ever, just 13 percent, and it is precisely this sort of legislative malfeasance that produced November’s voter rebellion. One wonders what those 13 percent are thinking?
Enough Senators rose to the occasion and opposed the bill that Sen. Reid had to withdraw it last Thursday. And, doesn’t all of this make you thankful that our president has demanded “an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand?”
This spectacle calls attention to the idiocy of lame duck sessions more than at any time in memory. Voters fired about 13 percent of the 535 members of Congress, relieving Democrats of control of the House of Representatives and narrowing their majority in the Senate. And yet the leadership and many members continued to behave as they did before the election, in the same way that earned Democrats a loss of 69 total seats. And – unbelievably – many of them seem pleased with themselves.
The phrase “lame duck” dates back to the 18th century at the London Stock Exchange, and refers to a stock broker who defaulted on his debts. In today’s political parlance, it is used to describe a politician who either did not or could not run for re-election, or was defeated in his or her bid to be re-elected. “Lame duck” is an apt description of our Congressional misfits.
In business, when an employee does his or her job badly, or behaves in an unacceptable manner, he or she is dismissed from their job and asked to leave the premises. Immediately. They don’t get to hang around continuing to misbehave for another couple of months.
For some reason this sensible procedure is not followed in the US Congress. There, those who have been found wanting by voters or didn’t seek re-election are able to continue functioning for another sixty days, with no consequences for making disastrous decisions that their constituents dislike. Some of the members who were dismissed by voters supported the omnibus spending bill and other bills opposed by a majority of the American people.
This idiotic practice must stop. On this and other matters Congress would be well advised to follow the sensible practices of business. If you lose an election, clean out your desk and head home; you are done as a legislator the day after the election, and Congress shuts down until January.
That would eliminate most of the disservice we have been subjected to since Nov. 2, and would force Congressional leaders to take care of important business in a timely, mature and responsible fashion, which would be not only a breath of fresh air, but a dramatic improvement in government.
Score another point for good government by keeping legislation to a manageable number of pages. It’s absurd to have bills of hundreds or thousands of pages in length, and highly irresponsible to not allow ample time for them to be read and debated prior to voting on them. And bundling a divisive measure with a popular one in an attempt to get the divisive measure passed more than anything else resembles extortion.
Perhaps after another election cycle we will have done away with most or all of the remaining “disservants” and the country will be on its way to restoring honor and dignity to Congress.
Cross-posted from Observations