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View from the Hill Blog: Bend or Break: Congressional Stalemate

By Grace Boatright, View from the Hill National Grange Legislative Blog (7/1/11)

  JULY 2, 2011 --

Remember in school when the teacher would assign the class a problem to work through for the next 45 minutes while he or she left to go back to their office for some reason (god knows what that reason was; my speculations are not pretty). Most of the class would goof off, talking about anything but the homework assignment at hand, three or four people would make lame attempts at resolution, but inevitably one kid would end up doing all of the work. When the teacher came back nothing was resolved, everybody was in trouble (including that one good kid…sorry buddy) and nothing was learned. No matter the discipline techniques imposed by the teacher, he or she just couldn’t inspire the students into finishing their work. This situation, unfortunately, seems to adequately reflect Congress’ performance over the last six months.

During this time, every issue taken up by Congress has resulted in absolute stalemate. Only 18 bills have become law since the 112th Congress convened and 15 of those named buildings after people. The entire month of June has seen only 17 Senate votes, with half of those being nominations or cloture motions. Come August 2nd the government will default on its $14.4 trillion national debt; a guaranteed global financial crisis of armageddon proportions. Unemployment still stands above 9%, with the unemployment rate having risen in 210 metro cities in May. It should also be said that the 9% unemployment rate does not include those who have dropped out of the labor market, those who have taken a substantial pay cut just to stay employed, or teenagers looking for summer work. Though upset over President Obama’s handling of the situation in Libya, House GOP members couldn’t gather enough votes to stop funding for the unconstitutional endeavor. And the list goes on.

I suppose with this huge mess, it’s no shock that Congress’ approval rating stands at a very depressing 17%. Even former Representative Artur Davis stated; “I don’t think there’s a single person in the United States who thinks that Congress is working right now.” It seems every effort to negotiate a budget deal, or any deal for that matter, ends with one party blaming the other for the general lack of action. “There’s a sense that the partisanship is worse than it’s ever been,” Davis continued. Even the President has participated in the blame game; yesterday comparing GOP lawmakers to his two school-aged daughters. “They’re in one week, out one week, then saying, ‘Obama’s got to step in.’ You need to be here. I’ve been here doing Afghanistan, bin Laden, the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”

What I don’t understand is why Congress has begun whining that President Obama isn’t doing anything to assist their discussions. Since when does Congress rely so heavily on the President’s assistance in order to legislate? I thought our nation was conducted on a system of checks and balances, with each branch being a self-sufficient entity, capable of carrying their own load. This lack of trust and cohesion among Congressional members is growing increasingly ridiculous to the American people, who in their daily lives manage to coexist with people they redeem unreasonable. Congress should try the same. 

The feelings of disapproval among the American people seem deeper now than they have ever been. The financial collapse occurred in 2008. It’s now 2011 and conditions do not appear to be improving. The American people are broke, tired, and growing increasingly frustrated with the group of men and women they sent to Washington to fix the problem. The Senate has decided to cut short their usual 4th of July break to continue working on the possible default situation. Personally, I believe being financially sound is the greatest form of independence. It’s what our forefathers were fighting for- the right to prosper. Perhaps Congress should focus on the reason for the 4th of July celebration and stop acting like high school kids left alone in the classroom.

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Programs Assistant

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