We used to call lunch time outside school playtime recess. Thus far the US House has behaved more childishly and had more recess time off than any other during the first six weeks of the 112th Congress. Like most bad schoolboys caught unprepared doing their last minute revisions (cramming) for end of term exams, the House finally passed, after four days of after-midnight debate sessions, a bill to keep the government funded, functioning and running by gutting nearly every programme that does not have obscene and massive amounts of special interest campaign money attached.
After a marathon session before the President’s Day recess, the US House, along party lines, at 4:30 am passed a record $60 Billion dollar temporary spending initiative before adjourning for the long holiday weekend recess.
The Tea party freshmen lawmakers can return home claiming they “tamed the budget beast” but ignore the ugly fact that the current bill has zero chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate or overcoming a likely Presidential veto.
So come the 1st week of March (when I am safely back in the UK) there will be nothing to stop a government shut-down on 04 March of everything from Social Security cheque distribution to the air traffic control system. Then a few weeks later the US Congress will preside over the default of US by failing to raise the debt-ceiling.
After spending a day wandering around Capitol Hill, I was well and truly stunned by the cacophonous level of partisan SPIN rampant across this Congress. It was always bad, but never with the anger and enmity that exists today. The civility line employed by former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole (“Bill Clinton is my opponent not my enemy) has been obliterated by the harsh dialogue of blame. Already both sides are blaming each other for failure and no one is doing anything to keep the train on the rails.
I listened to impromptu gaggle after gaggle of Tea Party Congressmen discussing the coming fiscal Armageddon then actually saw one head from the gathering into the Congressional health clinic a few doors down where his Cadillac health care plan was something 50-million Americans without insurance could only dream of.
There has always been hypocrisy in DC but the sheer tone-deafness and lack of anything resembling decorum was shocking. I’ve been taking 2-3 business trips per year to DC to test the climate and visit with committee staff (where the real power is in Congress). Most could only bury their heads in their hands when the topic of the 112th Congress came up.
At least a dozen past contacts have thrown in the towel and gone to work for lobbying firms. The refrain was the same, “nothing will get done in this Congress because John Boehner has no control over his committee chairmen like Nancy Pelosi did.”
They all said, “there has been nothing this bad, not even when Newt was in charge. This Congress is bad news for anyone wanting to provide public service and now even the good ones are leaving.”
Maybe I should try and catch an earlier flight home?