Bipartisan, Common Sense Bills Could Make this a “Do-Something” Congress

Posted: Sep 09, 2014 5:00 PM

How many times have you heard about a problem with a government program and thought, “why don’t they do something about that?” Or perhaps heard about a piece of legislation that streamlines a bureaucratic function yet never seems to come to fruition?

There are plenty of proposals in Congress that would tackle these frustratingly wasteful and inefficient types of issues. Whether it’s fixing Obamacare’s 30-hour definition of a work week, figuring out whether foreign aid programs are even working, or keeping access to the Internet permanently tax-free, straightforward legislation already exists to fix these problems.

To help, National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has identified the 10 most ready-to-pass bills, or “No-Brainers”, in an effort to get Congress acting on good legislation that should not start knock-down drag-out ideological battle royals. All of the bills have bipartisan support.

For a Congress being tagged with the “do-nothing” moniker, thanks to less than 2 percent of legislation becoming law, these types of reforms are a chance to start dispelling that nickname.

Though, taxpayers aren’t likely to be holding their breath waiting for Congress given that over the prior three years, it enacted only one of NTU’s 32 previous “No-Brainers.” At the same time, if they can’t pass this stuff, what can they pass?

So what legislation are we talking about? In addition to the previously mentioned measures, the list includes the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform, or FLAIR Act, to create an inventory of all federally owned land. Yes, even in 2014 such a system does not exist – leaving taxpayer-owned properties sitting unused or neglected at a cost of millions of dollars each year.

How about airline ticket prices that lump taxes and fees together so you can’t tell what you’re paying for? The government actually requires airlines to do this! It’s a cynical regulation that keeps the public in the dark. The Transparent Airfares Act would get rid of it.

When it comes to about 117,000 people getting over $850 million worth of overlapping payments from Social Security Disability and Unemployment Insurance, even President Obama has requested this waste of money be fixed. Yet, Congress has still not acted on the Reducing Overlapping Payments Act.

The Pentagon has never complied with a 1990 law requiring federal agencies to provide auditable financial statements, making the Audit the Pentagon bill long overdue for passage.

These highlights illustrate some of the most obvious “No-Brainers” Congress has on the table during their return from recess. Though the next question that probably pops to mind is, if it’s so easy, why haven’t they passed?

To be fair to a GOP-controlled House that has indeed passed 352 bills this session – including some of those on NTU’s “No-Brainer” list – the “do-nothing” claims are probably more fitting for the Senate.

Harry Reid’s Senate has barely done anything since the Tea Party wave election of 2010, aside from taking hostage good legislation like the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act. During the current Congress they’ve only passed 71 bills.

Volume may not be a clear indicator of quality, but if we’re pointing fingers for the 113th Congress’ tepid totals, the Senate carries much of the blame.

The Senate’s stalling is one reason for a poor performance when it comes to “No-Brainers”, but beyond that, taxpayers and anyone concerned with better governance need to be louder to penetrate the constant clamor of Washington.

What is inexcusable, regardless of circumstance, is for Congress to fail to pass any no-brainer, fix-it legislation. There may be ideological barriers to sweeping reforms, but allowing pure politics or gamesmanship to prevent doing some good for the American taxpayer would earn this Congress a dunce cap.