Sorry, but you don’t.
At the start of Congress, right after Bush’s reelection, two topics dominated your agenda: Social Security and Immigration Reform. Neither passed.
Congress punted on Social Security after it got scared to death by the reaction of senior citizens to Bush’s proposed reforms. Ironically, the group least affected by the changes — the elderly who were exempt from their provisions — was the most opposed. And the people directly impacted — current wage earners — were largely supportive, albeit apathetic. Democrats never got to stop the reforms by waging the gallant filibuster for which they were hoping. The Republicans quietly killed Bush’s proposals by an agreement never to talk about them again.
And the record on immigration hasn’t been any better. Again, the Democrats didn’t have to obstruct action. The Republicans did it for them. The compromises between the Senate bill’s emphasis on an earned path to citizenship and the House’s tough border protection is to adopt one from column A and one from column B. The public supports both border protections and an earned path to citizenship. But the House and Senate leaders don’t have the guts to pass the obvious compromise, and Bush won’t force their hand.
Then, as the session unfolded, two other issues became prominent. The Abramoff scandals put ethics and lobbying reform on the agenda and the rise of gasoline prices made energy a center-stage issue once more. And again, Congress did next to nothing.
It hasn’t even considered anything approaching tough ethics reform, conspicuously rejecting bans on congressional travel paid for by private organizations and earmarking limitations, apart from the tepid disclosure requirements that are now up for consideration. Congress won’t even consider such items as banning employment of spouses on campaign payrolls or limitations on lobbying by sons, daughters and wives. Those should be major priorities. Otherwise, a campaign contribution that pays for a wife’s salary becomes a direct cash payment to the member’s checking account and a job as a lobbyist becomes an avenue to exploit special access.
On energy, Congress passed a weak bill without Alaskan drilling or any aggressive alternative fuels legislation except for some marginally helpful items on ethanol production.
This year, according to the whip’s schedule, the House will be in session for fewer than 90 days, even projecting until the end of the year.
A Congress dominated by allegedly fiscally conservative Republicans has set all-time records on earmarking, and members, not challenged by the whip’s lackadaisical schedule, spent most of their time funding their pet projects in return for campaign donations from the businesses and lobbyists involved.
The raise in student-loan interest rates and the so-called bankruptcy reform bills were especially cruel to the families the GOP professes to care about. They make a higher education harder to afford and the resulting possible bankruptcy impossible to escape.
And, in a broader perspective, what good has the Republican Congress done since Bush took office? The tax cut was excellent and the good record of the economy bears it out. The No Child Left Behind bill is a landmark piece of legislation that is proving its worth. And the Patriot Act has done a lot to keep us safe.
But lately? In the past four years, what has this Congress done to deserve reelection? Precious little.
All the pundits are focusing on whether the Republicans keep power in the 2008 election or whether the Democrats take over. But both parties have a dismal record this Congress — a record of non-achievement. T
his has been, truly, the do-nothing Congress of all time!